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LICIACube [Argotec]

LICIACube (Light Italian Cube sat for Imaging of Asteroids) is a project coordinated by the Italian space agency for the development of a SmallSat built in the Argotec laboratories in Turin. The mission to monitor effects of the impact of NASA's DART asteroid impact probe, the crater and the evolution of the debris produced by the collision.

The 14 kg spacecraft is based on ArgoMoon. The payload consists of two electro-optical imagers for narrow and wide range. It will use an autonomous navigation system, an integrated propulsion system, and an advanced on-board computer to collect basic scientific data for the development techniques to prevent potential impacts with asteroids.

The imagers on baord are:

  • LEIA (LICIACube Explorer Imaging for Asteroid), a narrow field panchromatic camera to acquire images from long distance with a high spatial resolution.
  • LUKE (LICIACube Unit Key Explorer), a wide field RGB camera, allowing a multicolor analysis of the asteroidal environment.

The scientific objectives of the LICIACube mission can be summarized as follows:

  • to witness the DART impact on the Dimorphos surface;
  • study the formation of the plume generated by the impact, in particular to characterize its structure and evolution, directly linked to the structure of the asteroid surface material;
  • characterize – depending on the plume’s dissipation rate – the impact site on the Dimorphos surface, to obtain measures of the crater’s size and morphology;
  • observing the non-impacted hemisphere, to contribute to dimension and volume estimate of the target itself.

LICIACube was launched on board of DART, where it remained for 16 months of the cruise phase before it was deployed 12 September 2022.

Nation: Italy
Type / Application: Asteroid flyby
Operator: ASI, Argotec
Contractors: Argotec
Equipment: 2 electro-optical imagers for narrow and wide range
Configuration: CubeSat (6U)
Propulsion: Cold gas thrusters
Power: 2 deployable fixed solar arrays, batteries
Lifetime: 15 months cruise + 6 months of operations
Mass: 14 kg
Orbit: Asteroid fly-by
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
LICIACube 2021-110C 24.11.2021 Va SLC-4E Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) with DART


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