Tempe company plays role in NASA’s asteroid-exploring spacecraft - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Tempe company plays role in NASA’s asteroid-exploring spacecraft

A depiction of the Lucy spacecraft. (Source: NASA) A depiction of the Lucy spacecraft. (Source: NASA)

A Tempe company will play a role in NASA’s mission to study six Jupiter Trojan asteroids.

KinetX Aerospace is the only private company to be certified by NASA for a major deep space exploration mission, named 'Lucy.'

The company will be in charge of the navigation and mission design support during the development and operational phases of the Lucy mission set to launch in October 2021.

The spacecraft will explore the mysterious Trojans, believed to include ancient objects that formed throughout the early solar system.

“The data collected will tell us a much about planet formation and the early evolution of our solar system,” TechTHiNQ Account Director Alec Robertson said.

During flight, KinetX will use radio metric tracking from NASA's Deep Space Network to navigate the Lucy spacecraft through multiple Earth gravity-assist flybys, and then on to an encounter with one main belt asteroid and close flybys of six known Trojan objects.

During approach and flyby of the asteroid and Trojan bodies, KinetX will use a camera designed and built by JHU/APL for Optical Navigation that is the same design as the JHU/APL imager that KinetX used for OpNav during the successful New Horizons flyby of Pluto in July 2015, according to a news release. 

The spacecraft will carry a variety of instruments, including a thermal infrared spectrometer from Arizona State University in Tempe. 

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, CO, is the principal investigator institution and will lead the science investigation.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, CO, will build the spacecraft. 

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