LICIACube – the Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids - is a space mission of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), based on a 6U cubesat that will take part in the NASA DART (Double Asteroid Redirect Test) mission, whose goal is the validation of the Kinetic Impact technique for Planetary Defense purposes. To this aim, the NASA DART probe, developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory APL of the Johns Opkins University, will impact on the secondary member of the (65803) Didymos binary asteroid system.
LICIACube contribution is devoted to enhance the information gained from the main probe impact, so supporting the validation of the deflection technique, and to allow dedicated scientific investigations. DART probe will be launched in mid 2021 and LICIACube will be hosted as piggyback during the 15 months of interplanetary cruise, then released several days before the impact and autonomously guided towards the target, to collect pictures of the post-impact scenario. Several unique images of the effects of the DART impact on the asteroid can be collected and transmitted towards Earth, such as e.g. the formation and the development of the plume potentially determined by the impact itself.
SOC activities descriptionLICIACube is an ASI project, whose design, integration and test has been assigned to the aerospace company Argotec. The scientific team is led by National Institute of Astrophysics INAF (OAR, IAPS, OAA, OAPd, OATs) with the support of IFAC-CNR and University Parthenope of Naples. The team is enriched by University of Bologna, for orbit determination and satellite navigation, and Polytechnic of Milan, for mission analysis and optimization.
LICIACube will be the first Italian autonomous mission in deep space, also for the Ground Segment, with data archiving and processing managed by the Space Science Data Center (SSDC) of ASI.
The main duties of the LICIACube SOC will be to:
- provide raw images to the DART team
- generate all the relevant SPICE kernels
- compute calibrated and derived data and distribute them to the DART team
- update the LICIACube internal archive with relevant documents
- design and manage the PDS4 archive to be published by JPL after the end of the mission