M-ARGO (Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer) is the first stand-alone ESA interplanetary mission with CubeSats. This demonstrator mission will perform a rendezvous with a small asteroid, located up to 150 million km away from the Earth, aiming at analysing its shape, mass, and surface composition in order to identify the presence of in-situ resources. M-ARGO will operate as a stand-alone CubeSat, able to perform the manoeuvres necessary to rendezvous with and fly around the asteroid for several months, and to communicate with the Earth, all without the exploitation of any carrier spacecraft. This will allow demonstrating stand-alone CubeSat technologies and operations in deep space, especially for what concerns propulsion and telecommunication systems, thus paving the way to future missions where entire fleets of CubeSats could be sent to explore several asteroids of interest.
M-ARGO mission will be carried out with a single 12 U CubeSat, equipped with a laser altimeter and a multispectral camera. The CubeSat will be endowed with a miniaturized electrical propulsion system, X-band communication capabilities through a reflect-array antenna, and a solar array orientation mechanism.
Through the ESA/GSTP Fly, Italy contributes to different aspects of M-ARGO, such as the mission analysis and the navigation, the experiments of optical GNC and radio science, the solar array orientation mechanism (µSADA), the X-band transponder (C-DST) and the multispectral camera (CHEIDES).
The launch is planned in 2026.