The Space Alliance with NASA to explore the Universe | Leonardo

The OSIRIS-REx mission, wherein an area probe was launched in 2016 to succeed in the Bennu asteroid, acquire samples from its floor and transport them again to Earth, is an instance of the cooperation between NASA and Leonardo. The enterprise required subtle applied sciences, lots of which have been developed by Leonardo in Italy and the UK, and follows the quite a few accomplishments the corporate has achieved in different area missions with the US area exploration company.

The mission efficiently concluded on 24 September 2023 when the spacecraft, throughout its return to Earth, launched the capsule containing a chunk of asteroid Bennu that landed within the Utah desert. This was NASA’s first historic contact with an asteroid, which befell in October 2020, when OSIRIS-REx touched the floor of Bennu for simply 5 seconds – sufficient to gather roughly 250 grams of soil materials.

OSIRIS-REx descending towards the rocky floor of the asteroid Bennu – conceptual picture
Credit: NASA – Goddard/College of Arizona 

Since asteroids are by-products of the planet-forming course of, finding out Bennu will assist scientists to know the origin of the Photo voltaic System, to check assets on the floor of those celestial our bodies – like water, natural matter, metals, and uncommon earths which are important for future area exploration – and to assemble data that can be utilized to foretell their probability of colliding with Earth with higher precision. NASA has additionally introduced that about 75% of the samples gathered can be preserved for future examine with applied sciences that don’t but exist. 


Leonardo’s position within the OSIRIS-REx mission

Leonardo applied sciences performed a necessary position in all of the crucial phases of the mission: guiding the probe towards the asteroid, amassing the samples, and returning to Earth.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Heart – conceptual picture lab 

Observe the voyage of OSIRIS-REx

On the Southampton website within the UK, Leonardo realised  and equipped Arizona State College (ASU) with the infrared sensor for the OTES – Thermal Emission Spectrometer, serving to determine minerals on the asteroid, collect thermal information, and allow scientists to attain a greater understanding of Bennu’s composition. Leonardo constructed the A-STR – Autonomous Star Tracker angle sensor, the ‘compass’ that guided OSIRIS-REx all through its voyage, on the Campi Bisenzio website close to Florence, Italy.

Engaged on the angle sensor in Campi Bisenzio 

The sensor dealt with the precision manoeuvres required for correct positioning in relation to the asteroid throughout its strategy, ensured a secure, safe place whereas amassing samples from the floor and, lastly, helped the probe modify its trajectory repeatedly all through its 2.3 billion kilometre journey again residence.

Following OSIRIS-REx, Leonardo is getting ready for ESA’s HERA mission, the subsequent problem within the examine of asteroids. Leonardo has produced the photovoltaic panels that in 2024 will accompany the probe in the direction of the binary asteroid Didymos and its moon Dimorphos. The target is to check extra carefully the after-effects of NASA’s DART mission, which in 2022 efficiently completed the primary take a look at of deflection of an asteroid by modifying its orbit. DART was additionally guided by a Leonardo compass.


Leonardo and NASA, a long-lasting collaboration

OSIRIS-REx has simply landed, however quite a few NASA missions are nonetheless in orbit or on the launchpad, whereas others have already accomplished their work. Most utilizing Leonardo devices and applied sciences. A few of them are created proper in Leonardo’s laboratories, whereas others are the results of the corporate’s partnership with Thales via the Telespazio (Leonardo 67% and Thales 33%) and Thales Alenia Area (Thales 67% and Leonardo 33%) joint ventures.

Leonardo created the angle sensors for NASA’s JUNO mission, which has been finding out the planet Jupiter since 2016. This explicit sensor is an SRU – Stellar Reference Unit, the optics of that are specifically designed to detect extraordinarily faint stars throughout navigation. With these distinctive traits, the SRU not solely guided the probe throughout 2.8 billion kilometres however was additionally used, for the primary time ever, as a high-resolution scientific instrument for exploring a number of phenomena and traits of Jupiter’s system. In fall 2022, for instance, JUNO executed an in depth fly-by of Europa, considered one of Jupiter’s moons, and the SRU captured the very best decision picture but taken of the Moon’s darkish aspect whereas it was illuminated by the planet’s glow.

Remark of Jupiter’s lightning
Credit: NASA

On this picture, captured by the SRU on NASA’s JUNO probe in February 2018, the arrows point out small flashes noticed on the cloud tops of Jupiter, whereas the enlarged packing containers present how they seem within the probe’s on-board scientific digital camera. A examine printed in Nature journal shared photographs of lightning captured by the Leonardo SRU displaying that the lightning originated at unexpectedly excessive altitudes, the place the temperature is simply too low for liquid water to exist. SRU’s technical capabilities, mixed with JUNO’s shut fly-bys over the cloud tops, allowed lightning of as much as 33 kilometres throughout to be recognized.

JUNO additionally carries on board a JIRAM spectrometer (additionally constructed on the Campi Bisenzio website), funded by the Italian Area Company (ASI) and operated below the scientific duty of Italy’s Nationwide Astrophysics Institute (INAF). JIRAM is likely one of the eyes of the mission that permits the simultaneous seize of imaging and spectral data in infrared utilizing a twin focal airplane, thus permitting to look at Jupiter up shut and higher perceive its formation, evolution and construction.

JIRAM spectrometer on board the JUNO probe – conceptual picture.

Leonardo, via Thales Alenia Area, with the assist of a scientific staff from ‘La Sapienza’ College in Rome and funding from ASI, constructed the KaT – Ka-Band Translator for conducting radio science experiments to acquire data on the inner composition and gravitational subject of Jupiter.

This sequence of photographs depicts the formation and motion of cyclones at Jupiter’s south pole, captured by the JIRAM infrared imager on the JUNO spacecraft. The information was collected between 2 February 2017 and three November 2019.

Watch the video: JIRAM ‘watches’ cyclones on Jupiter


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