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Advanced Exploration Systems Division

Near Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout)

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout, is a 6U CubeSat developed jointly between NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA selected NEA Scout as a candidate secondary payload for Artemis 1, the first integrated (uncrewed) flight test of the Space Launch System and Orion Crewed Spacecraft. The NEA Scout mission is funded by the Advanced Exploration Systems Division of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. 

NEA Scout is a robotic reconnaissance mission that will fly by and return data from a near Earth asteroid.   NEA Scout will deploy its main propulsion system, a solar sail, that will be used in conjunction with its other on-board systems to provide stable pointing for both science and optical navigation as well as for slewing and navigating the spacecraft to its predetermined destination.

The NEA Scout team is currently evaluating a range of targets, and is continually updating the candidate pool based on new discoveries and expected performance. Because asteroids that can be reached change with launch dates, the NEA Scout team maintains a list of suitable targets over a range of launch dates, with the current planned target being 2019 GF1. The primary instrument payload will be a visible camera to image and collect data regarding the physical properties of a candidate NEA. The full science success criteria entail flying by a near Earth asteroid and acquiring images sufficient to determine its physical properties, namely, ephemeris, albedo, shape/volume, rotational properties, debris/dust field in the local environment, and regolith characteristics.

The data collected will help fill Strategic Knowledge Gaps (SKG's) related to asteroids as a precursor to subsequent safe and successful human missions. 

Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) are of interest not only for Human exploration, but also for science, in situ resource utilization, and planetary defense. The data to be returned by NEA Scout is pertinent to all four areas.

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