Published: June 21, 2019 By
Graphic of the Janus spacecraft mapping a binary asteroid

In just three years, a new space mission led by CU Boulder could examine some of the solar system’s most dynamic duos: binary asteroids.

NASA announced this week that the Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids mission had been selected as a finalist in the space agency’s new small satellite program called SIMPLEx.

The SIMPLEx program seeks to send miniature spacecraft, in many cases weighing less than 100 pounds, into space to explore diverse scientific questions. Each of the three selected finalist missions will have a maximum budget of $55 million, and Janus has a proposed launch date of 2022.

Janus, named for the two-faced Roman god, will employ a pair of these small satellites to collect unprecedented data on systems in which two asteroids revolve around each other a bit like Earth and the moon.

Daniel Scheeres, a professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, leads the Janus project. 

He said that while binary asteroids make up at least 15 percent of all asteroids, scientists have never been able to get a close look at one. Read the full story at CU Boulder Today.