PICS Seminar: Mihkel Pajusalu (MIT)

Mihkel Pajusalu (MIT)
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm

"Large scale multiple asteroid touring enabled by electric solar wind sail, optical navigation, and CubeSats"

Electric solar wind sail technology and optical navigation, combined with miniaturized spacecraft, such as CubeSats, could allow solar system exploration, such as multiple asteroid touring, on an unprecedented scale. This far, large scale solar system exploration has been limited by propulsion and monolithic mission architectures. Electric solar wind sail is a propellantless propulsion technology which extracts momentum from the charged particles in the solar wind (the stream of plasma constantly ejected by the Sun) that interact with the electric eld generated by a spacecraft. As no propellant is being consumed, the amount of delta-v generated is only limited by the degradation of the spacecraft itself (and secondary consumables), which is ideal for multiple asteroid touring. Optical navigation in turn would increase spacecraft autonomy and allow large scale parallel missions, while reducing the need for Earth based resources, such as the Deep Space Network. This talk will mainly focus on a mission concept currently in development involving 50 CubeSats to visit approximately 300 asteroids during a 3.2 year mission. Each asteroid's visible surface would be mapped in select bands in UV, VIS, NIR, and MIR ranges and a shape model would be constructed. This also allows determining the orbits of binary systems, allowing accurate mass and density estimation.

For more information, contact Caue Borlina (

About the Series

The MIT Planetary Lunch Colloquium Series [PlCS] is a weekly seminar series organized within the EAPS department. Colloquia topics span the range of research interests of the department's planetary sciences research program. The seminars usually take place on Tuesdays from 12-1:30 pm in 54-517 unless otherwise noted (term-time only). Speakers include members of the MIT community and visitors. Talks are intended to appeal to graduate students, postdocs, research scientists, and faculty with a background in planetary science. A light lunch is provided.