Juventas, a 6U nanosatellite for ESA’s Hera mission, will perform the first radar measurements of an asteroid. The radar signals, capable of penetrating through the asteroid body will give insight to its internal structure.

The Juventas spacecraft is a small spacecraft with big mission goals. It will transport to the Didymos binary asteroid system as a passenger on the ESA Hera spacecraft. Once at the asteroid, Juventas will be deployed to contribute to the understanding of the formation processes of binary asteroids, their interior structure, surface properties, and dynamical properties.

Juventas relies on the Hera spacecraft as a means of relaying commands and data with ground operations centers as well as receiving navigation informatino through its Inter-satellite radio link. Juventas will operate from a stable terminator orbit around the Didymain asteroid, making radar and radio science observations of Didymoon.

At the end of its mission lifetime between 1-3 months, Juventas will descend from its observation orbit to land on the surface of Didymoon. High rate sensors will monitor the impact bouncing and landing events for information on asteroid surface properties. 

Payloads include:

  • Monostatic Low-frequency radar to gain insight on the asteroid interior
  • Gravimeter for surface local gravity measurements
  • Radio science enabled by ISL link
  • Visible camera providing context imagery

In close orbit around Didymoon, Juventas will line up with Hera to perform satellite-to-satellite radio-science experiments and carry out a low-frequency radar survey of the asteroid interior, similar to performing a detailed ‘X-ray scan’ of Didymoon to unveil its interior. The adventure will end with a landing, using the dynamics of any likely bouncing to capture details of the asteroid’s surface material – followed by several days of surface operations.

Juventas is a 6U satellite.

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