HomeOutdoorsNewsNASA Approves ‘Asteroid-Hunting’ Telescope, Aims for 2028 Launch

NASA Approves ‘Asteroid-Hunting’ Telescope, Aims for 2028 Launch

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Last week, it was confirmed that NASA has green-lit an asteroid-hunting space telescope with the goal to launch in 2028. In NASA’s December 6th update, it was revealed that the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor space telescope officially passed the Key Decision Point C review (KDP-C).

“The decision commits NASA to a development cost baseline of $1.2 billion and a commitment to be ready for a launch no later than June 2028. The cost and schedule commitments outlined at KDP-C align the NEO Surveyor mission with program management best practices that account for potential technical risks and budgetary uncertainty beyond the development project’s control.”

NASA further explained that the NEO Surveyor is an infrared space telescope designed to help advance the agency’s planetary defense efforts by expediting our ability to discover and characterize at least 90% of the potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit.

“NEO Surveyor’s successful completion of this review furthers NASA’s commitment to planetary defense,” the agency noted. “And the search for NEOs that could one day pose an impact threat to Earth.”

NASA also stated that the flight mission falls under its Planetary Science Division within the Science Mission directorate. It is being developed by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The survey investigation is being conducted by the University of Arizona. 

It was also noted that NASA’s Planetary Missions Program Office is providing NEO Surveyor program management. The program oversight is provided by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). 

The University of Arizona Shares A Statement About NASA’s NEO Surveyor Project 

Meanwhile, the University of Arizona issued a statement late last week about NASA’s NEO surveyor project. The University confirmed that the launch will be no earlier than June 2028. 

The University of Arizona further explained that the NEO Surveyor is being led by Survey Director, Professor Amy Mainzer. The project is a planetary defense mission designed to respond to the objectives of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office by detecting, cataloguing, and characterizing NEOs.

“In doing so, the NEO Surveyor mission provides critical decision support to NASA and other stakeholders,” the statement reads. “Who must assess the risks of NEO impacts to Earth and must identify potential mitigation strategies.”

The University of Arizona also reported that space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the NASA center responsible for implementation. It will be in charge of project management as well. The NEO Surveyor will “complement the capabilities of NEOWISE and enable NASA to find NEOs much faster.”

“The NEO Surveyor payload contains an infrared telescope operating in two infrared bands, 4-5 microns and 6-10 microns. With the use of an all-infrared telescope, NEO Surveyor is optimized for the task of finding and characterizing the impact risks posed by potentially hazardous objects, both as individual objects and as populations,” the university added.