The updates on the DART mission, the first planetary defense mission to which the ASI has contributed significantly thanks to the LICIACube satellite, were presented during the NASA press conference.
The meeting, opened by the NASA administrator, Bill Nelson, who confirmed the deviation of the asteroid, saw the participation of the president of the Italian Space Agency, Giorgio Saccoccia, who showed the latest processed images coming from the LICIACube satellite, with a few time-lapse videos which show the impact, starting from a few seconds before to nearly 30 seconds after.
The extraordinary event was immortalized by the ASI LICIACube satellite which, at a distance of 11 million kilometers from Earth, immediately identified its target with its two on-board cameras. An outstanding result, which involved “recording” a 160-meter-size object at a relative speed of just 6.6 km per second. A unique challenge, with an all-Italian know-how, the result of a partnership between universities, companies and research centres. The made in Italy satellite captured, in total, 627 images, 326 of which have reached the Earth so far. After receiving all the images, these will be the object of scientific studies, which will provide us with further information on the cloud created by the impact, in particular to characterize its structure and evolution. Another important result was the capture of images of the hemispheres of asteroids which are not visible to DART, useful to define the shape and density of celestial bodies.
LICIACube (an acronym of Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids) is the travelling companion of the DART mission, as big as a box of boots and with a mass of nearly 13 kilograms. It’s an ASI project and was entirely manufactured in the factories of the company Argotec in Turin, and it’s the first satellite manufactured in our country to travel to the deep space. An actual reporter from Space.
LICIACube’s all-Italian team is made up of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Milan, the University of Bologna, the Parthenope University of Naples and the IFAC-CNR of Florence, coordinated by the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).