DART Mission photos came from NASA's first use of Argotec microsatellite

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 7:00 AM CDT
  • Intelligent microsatellite, LICIACube, documented NASA's successful asteroid collision
  • Similar Argotec microsatellite slated for the Artemis I moon mission

TURIN, Italy, Oct. 5, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- When NASA's DART spacecraft successfully hit the asteroid Dimorphos, the closest cameras that captured the impact were on LICIACube, a microsatellite built by Argotec. The next closest cameras were telescopes on Earth, 7 million miles away.

Argotec Mission Control Centre in Turin, Italy, received the first pictures from LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids) a few hours after impact. LICIACube captured more than 600 pictures — invaluable material for the scientific community for planetary defense purposes.

The two cameras that captured the images also powered LICIACube's self-navigation system, which precisely positioned it before and during impact. For 12 hours prior to impact, the microsatellite navigated toward the target without human control. One minute before collision, it began capturing three images per second while rotating continuously around the asteroid at a safe distance to witness the collision from different angles.

This mission confirmed the unique performance and reliability of Argotec's satellite program, including its advanced AI algorithm. Continuous image acquisition, real-time on-board processing, target identification and autonomous tracking in a miniature high performance on-board computer make this system unique.

LICIACube remains in deep space, providing more information of unexplored areas.

"These results are a revolutionary step in space technology," said David Avino, CEO and founder of Argotec. "Our part in the DART Mission has shown that AI-powered autonomous navigation and target recognition in miniature spacecrafts perform reliably in challenging conditions such as deep space."

Argotec will take photos from a similar microsatellite, ArgoMoon, on NASA's upcoming Moon-orbiting mission, Artemis I. It will be the only European payload aboard the Space Launch System. Once ArgoMoon launches, Argotec will be the world's only company with two microsatellites in deep space.


See the DART images from Argotec's LICIACube at https://www.nasa.gov/feature/first-images-from-italian-space-agency-s-liciacube-satellite

About Argotec

Argotec designs, engineers, manufactures and operates small satellites and other aerospace products that combine reliability with top performance. Its products and services are used by several international space agencies and commercial partners. Argotec is based in Turin, Italy, with U.S. headquarters in Largo, Maryland. It is rapidly expanding, with revenues doubling in 2022. In 2023, the company plans to double its employees, triple its plant area and expand its U.S. presence.

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