ExoTerra Resource, LLC has been awarded a NASA contract to perform system design of a solar electric propulsion spacecraft capable of capturing an asteroid and placing it into a lunar orbit.
The mission intends to demonstrate the capability of preventing an asteroid from hitting the planet and proving we’re “smarter than the dinosaurs.”
During the 6 month study, ExoTerra will explore using existing space hardware to design an affordable system that can grapple a space rock up to 10 m across and bring it back to lunar orbit for astronauts and scientists to study using the Orion Deep Space Capsule. A key to the mission is the advanced solar electric propulsion system. The high efficiency system accelerates propellant using magnetic fields instead of combustion. This allows the mission to bring home an asteroid weighing up to 1000 mT.
The contract is one of 18 studies selected under NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission BAA. ExoTerra’s award is one of 4 in the category of “Adapting Commercial Spacecraft for the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle.” Other study areas included: asteroid capture systems, rendezvous sensors, partnerships for secondary payloads, and potential partnerships to enhance U.S. exploration activities in cis-lunar space. More information on the award can be found here.
To perform the design, ExoTerra brings together a highly qualified team of experienced space companies and emerging small businesses. This includes Moog, Inc, in Golden, CO, Deployable Space Systems in Santa Barbara, CA, Odyssey Space Research in Houston, TX, Altius Space Machines in Louisville, CO, Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI and N-Science in Golden, CO.