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NEA Scout



The Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) mission employs a 6U CubeSat and a solar sail to fly by and return images of a Near Earth Asteroid. The primary objectives of the mission are to make at least one slow close flyby and return images and observe the asteroid's position in space, shape, rotational properties, spectral class, local dust and debris field, regional morphology, and regolith properties. The primary technology objective is to demonstrate a low-cost capability to perform a precursor robotic mission to a Near-Earth Asteroid target and perform in situ observations. The spacecraft launched as a ride-on on the Artemis 1 mission on 16 November 2022.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

NEA Scout is a 6U (10 x 20 x 30 cm) CubeSat with a deployable 86 square meter solar sail. Total mass of the spacecraft is about 14 kg. Power is supplied by two deployable HAWK solar panels and rechargeable lithium batteries. Attitude is maintained by a cold gas reaction control system, reaction wheels, star trackers, and sun sensors. Communications are in X-band via the Iris transponder system, a pair of low-gain patch antennas, and two medium-gain antenna panels.

The camera, NEACam, is a 20 M pixel CMOS image sensor with a useful (illuminated) array size 3840 pixels in diameter. A radiation hardened LEON 3 computer controls spacecraft operations and onboard image processing. It covers 400 to 900 nm wavelength with a 27 degree field of view (0.09 mrad/pixel). It is 12.4 mm x 6.2 mm x 6.2 mm and uses about 5 W power.

The solar sail is the main source of propulsion for the mission. It is a thin (2.5 micron) square sheet of CP1 material, roughly 9.3 m on a side with a total effective area of 86 square meters, held in place by four 7.3 m long metallic booms. It is folded up in the 6U bus and deployed after launch and satellite release.

Mission Profile

After launch as a ride-on on Artemis 1 on an SLS Block 1 booster on 16 November 2022 and deployment, contact was not established with NEA Scout, current status is unknown. The original plan is as follows: the NEA Scout will use lunar flybys and its solar sails to spiral out of the Earth-Moon system. Over approximately 2 years it will reach the asteroid, conduct a target detection and approach phase, a reconnaissance phase, and a close proximity science phase.

The target detection and approach phase begins when the spacecraft gets within about 40,000 - 50,000 km of the asteroid and involves identifying the target and making precise ephemeris determinations over a few weeks to prepare for the flyby. The reconnaissance phase begins when the spacecraft is within 100 - 120 km of the asteroid, lasts up to a few hours, and involves studying the asteroid's volume, global shape, spin properties, and local environment. This phase should return imaging at 50 cm/pixel or better over 80% of the asteroid's surface. This will be followed by a science data downlink phase. The duration of these mission phases are highly dependent on the final target asteroid chosen and the actual launch date.

Close proximity science starts when the spacecraft gets within about 1 km and involves a slow flyby (5 - 20 m/s) of the asteroid and return of close-up (10 cm/pixel at 800 m range) images covering over 30% of the surface. Even at these slow speeds close approach will only last about 20 seconds. These images will be used to study the local morphology and regolith properties. Total mission time is a little over 2 years. Asteroid 2020 GE, estimated to be about 4 - 18 meters across, is the current baseline NEA Scout target, to be encountered in November 2023. Other asteroids may be considered depending on actual launch time, orbital conditions, and the possible future asteroid discoveries.

Image credit: NASA

Alternate Names

  • 57684
  • NEAScout
  • Near Earth Asteroid Scout
  • urn:nasa:pds:context:instrument_host:spacecraft.neas

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2022-11-16
Launch Vehicle: SLS Block 1 Crew
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 14 kg

Funding Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

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



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Julie Castillo-RogezMission Principal InvestigatorNASA Jet Propulsion
Dr. Charles Les JohnsonMission Principal InvestigatorNASA Marshall Space Flight
Dr. James E StottProject ManagerNASA Marshall Space Flight
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