HomeSpaceNEO Surveyor launch delayed regardless of funding increase

NEO Surveyor launch delayed regardless of funding increase

WASHINGTON — Whereas Congress supplied extra funding than NASA requested for an asteroid mission, company officers mentioned it is not going to stop a two-year slip in its launch.

The fiscal yr 2023 omnibus spending invoice enacted in December directed NASA to spend a minimum of $90 million on the Close to Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor mission, an area telescope to detect close to Earth asteroids as a part of NASA’s planetary protection efforts. NASA had requested solely $39.9 million for the mission in its price range request, far lower than beforehand projected, and mentioned it might delay the mission’s launch from 2026 to 2028.

At a Jan. 24 assembly of NASA’s Small Our bodies Evaluation Group (SBAG), Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, mentioned that whereas the extra funding was useful, it might not enable NASA to keep away from that delay.

“That they had a extremely powerful price range for 2023, however, fortunately, the appropriations for NEO Surveyor really gave them an additional $50 million,” she mentioned. “It’s not sufficient to place them again on schedule for a 2026 launch. We’re nonetheless 2028, formally, however it’s an enormous assist in getting that staff transferring ahead.”

Congress handed the spending invoice weeks after the mission handed a affirmation evaluation, formally generally known as Key Determination Level C, permitting it to enter its subsequent part of improvement. That evaluation formally set a goal launch date of no later than June 2028 and a value estimate of $1.2 billion.

“We’re previous affirmation and into Section C,” Amy Mainzer, survey director for NEO Surveyor, mentioned in a separate presentation on the SBAG assembly Jan. 24. “It’s actually nice to have the ability to say that.”

She mentioned that the mission is presently working in direction of a launch in September 2027, 9 months forward of its formal requirement. The mission is making good progress on the infrared digital camera that the spacecraft will use to detect close to Earth objects, with a objective of discovering two-thirds of such asteroids not less than 140 meters throughout in 5 years.

Mainzer briefly addressed the price range points NEO Surveyor confronted. That included not simply the lower in NASA’s 2023 price range request but additionally the company’s choice in June 2022 to rescind $33 million of the $143 million appropriated in fiscal yr 2022, redirecting that funding to different tasks. By the top of August 2022, NASA instructed the mission to plan to have $80-90 million in fiscal yr 2023 primarily based on the progress of congressional appropriations.

“We did endure some price range cuts, it’s true, however we’re transferring on,” she mentioned. “We did handle to make excellent use of the funds that we’ve got out there this yr.”

Each Glaze and Mainzer addressed on the SBAG assembly one other concern concerning the mission: its elevated value. NEO Surveyor is a model of a mission idea referred to as NEOCam that was a finalist in NASA’s Discovery program of low-cost planet science missions, and as just lately as 2019 was projected to value not more than $600 million. The brand new $1.2 billion value estimate took some within the planetary science group without warning.

“I’ll take possession for that due to the delays that we put in place and a few of the price range challenges that we imposed on the mission,” mentioned Glaze. The 2-year delay, she famous, addressed price range pressures within the close to time period however elevated the mission’s total value by stretching it out.

Mainzer regarded on the large image, noting the mission’s objective of figuring out any asteroids that may pose a severe impression danger to the Earth. “This can be a downside we all know resolve. What number of international issues do we all know resolve which can be of the order of $1 billion?” she mentioned. “It’s an essential factor to do.”



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