The UK's Open University has completed a Qinetiq-led mission design and feasibility study for the Smallsat Intercept Missions to Objects Near Earth (Simone) project, proposed as part of the European Space Agency's Near Earth Objects (NEO) space mission preparation programme.

Five 120kg (365lb) satellites, costing a total of €80 million ($86 million), would be launched piggyback on an Ariane 5 in 2008, reaching their respective asteroid targets in 2010-11. The craft, using solar electric propulsion, would determine the mass, density and composition of the asteroids, and map their surfaces, in a programme to understand the potential dangers of NEOs to the Earth and ways to destroy or divert the objects if necessary.

Partnering Qinetiq and the Open University are the UK's Planetary and Space Science Research Institute and SciSys, with Italy's Politecnico de Milano and Telespazio. A Simone-Plus spacecraft has been proposed for low-cost interplanetary missions.

Source: Flight International