2016.B.1.2. CubeSat Opportunity Payload Inter-satellite Network Sensors (COPINS) on the ESA Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM)


Roger Walker (1)
David Binns (1)
Ian Carnelli (2)
Michael Kueppers (3)
Andrés Galvez (2)

  1. ESA/ESTEC, The Netherlands
  2. ESA/HQ, France
  3. ESA/ESAC, Spain




asteroid, science, exploration


The Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) is a small and innovative mission of opportunity, currently under study at ESA, intending to demonstrate new technologies for future deep-space missions while addressing planetary defense objectives and performing for the first time detailed investigations of a binary asteroid system. It leverages on a unique opportunity provided by asteroid 65803 Didymos, set for an Earth close-encounter in October 2022, to achieve a fast mission return in only two years after launch in October/November 2020. As part of an international cooperation, the ESA AIM spacecraft will rendezvous with Didymos and perform detailed characterization of the asteroid before and after the hypervelocity impact of the NASA DART spacecraft on the secondary asteroid to shed light on the dependence of the momentum transfer on the asteroid’s bulk density, porosity, surface and internal properties. An important technology demonstration component of the mission includes an inter-satellite network between the AIM spacecraft, two CubeSats deployed in the vicinity of the Didymos system and a lander (MASCOT-2) on the surface of the secondary body.

During the study phase led by the ESA General Studies Programme (GSP), two fully loaded 3-unit CubeSat deployers were accommodated in the AIM spacecraft design, and in 2015 a Sysnova technical challenge by was released by GSP calling for proposals on the CubeSat Opportunity Payload Inter-satellite Network Sensors (COPINS) concepts. The scientific objectives of the CubeSat concepts were purposefully left completely open to definition by the proposers, provided that they clearly contribute to the overall AIM mission objectives and enhance the mission return. Five CubeSat concepts were selected for parallel concept definition studies. Additionally, a number of technology activities were initiated in support of the COPINS concept studies in order to address key technical challenges. The AIM mission is currently in phase B1 at ESA, and if AIM is selected for implementation at the end of 2016, a call for flight opportunities will be released in 2017 for the actual COPINS to be embarked on AIM. This paper presents an introduction to AIM and provides an overview of the five different COPINS concepts and the associated technology support activities currently under study.



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