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NSSDCA ID: 2021-110C


The LICIACube (Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids) is a 6U CubeSat provided by the Italian Space Agency, carried along with the Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) to Didymos and was released on 11 September 2022 before the DART impact. The goal of the mission is to follow DART and return post-impact pictures of the asteroid Dimorphos. The scientific objectives are to: 1) verify the DART impact; 2) obtain images of the ejecta plume; 3) obtain images of the DART impact site; and 4) obtain images of the far (non-impact) hemisphere.

LICIACube has a 6U configuration (10 x 20 x 30 cm) and a mass of approximately 14 kg. The bus is constructed of aluminum alloy. The spacecraft has a propulsion capability of 56 m/s. It is 3-axis stabilized, using a star tracker, two Sun sensors, and an inertial measurement unit. for knowledge and reaction wheels and a cold gas propulsion system with four double-canted thrusters and two axial thrusters to desaturate the wheels. It uses passive thermal control, employing gap fillers, thermal spreaders, and thermal paint. Power is provided to a battery by two solar panel wings. Communications is through an X-band transponder and 4 patch antennas.

The payload is two optical cameras, the narrow-angle LICIACube Explorer Imaging for Asteroid (LEIA), and the wide-angle LICIACube Unit Key Explorer (LUKE), both mounted on one of the small ends of the spacecraft. The LEIA catadioptric camera has a 220 mm focal length, a 2.06 degree field of view, and an IFOV of 5 arcsec/pixel giving a resolution of 1.38 m/pixel at 55.3 km distance. It has a CMOS sensor with 2048 x 2048 pixel array with a panchromatic filter centered at 650 nm, covering 400 - 900 nm. LUKE has a focal length of 70.55 mm and a field of view of 5 degrees, with an IFOV of 16 arcsec/pixel, giving a spatial resolution of 4.31 meters at 55.3 km distance. It uses an RGB Bayer pattern filter.

LICIACube was mounted on the DART spacecraft from launch on 24 November 2021 at 06:21:02 UT until deployment from a spring-loaded box on 11 September 2022. It then performed a separation maneuver to follow about three minutes behind DART and return images of the impact, the ejecta plume, and the resultant crater. It will also image the opposite hemisphere from the impact. Closest approach was about 55 km. The images are being transmitted back to Earth over the succeeding days.

For information on the DART mission, see:

Image credit NASA/JHUAPL/Steve Gribben

Alternate Names

  • Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2021-11-24
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States
Mass: 14 kg

Funding Agency

  • Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (Italy)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Marilena AmorosoDeputy Program ManagerItalian Space
Dr. Simone PirrottaProgram ManagerItalian Space
Dr. Elisabetta DottoProject ScientistIstituto Nazionale di
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