science

The Italian LiciaCube flag has triumphed in space

Streams of shrapnel and jets of dust reflect the sunlight shining in cosmic black like flashes of fireworks. It’s a debris cone, or columnresulting from the impact of the Dart probe on the asteroid Dimorphos, documented by historic images of the LiciaCube nano-satellite from Asi, the first deep space mission operated entirely by an Italian team.

The project was managed by Asi and with the achievement entrusted to Argotec, the success of the LiciaCube saw the primary contribution of Inaf who coordinated the scientific team for the expedition under Elisabetta Dotto’s responsibility.

More than 600 shots taken in the vicinity constitute an accurate investigation of the first planetary defense test, conducted by NASA at night between September 26 and 27 at 12 million kilometers from Earth at the expense of the double Dydimos asteroid system.

LiciaCube’s eyewitnesses testified to the extent of the impact and, thanks to a successful strategy, was able to show the dynamics of a cosmic collision passing by the Dimorphos at a speed of 6 kilometers per second.

The size of a shoebox, the LiciaCube Challenge started right after the Dart launch, which took place two weeks before the impact. Indeed, Cubesat has independently navigated deep space thanks to the expertise of the national scientific community.

By observing Dimorphos for a few minutes, the LiciaCube did not provide direct evidence of a possible new orbit for the asteroid, which confirmation came to NASA rather than observers from Earth or in Earth’s orbit. Changing about 32 minutes from the orbital period, it is estimated that the investigation of the LiciaCube will allow us to improve, however, by understanding the physical properties of the asteroid.

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Utilizing NASA’s Deep Space Network, LiciaCube images were downloaded from Argotec’s Mission Control Center in Turin, and then shared with both the ASI mission’s Science Operations Center and NASA’s Dart team.

A legacy that shows the world the value of Italian nano-satellite technology.

Featured image: ASI’s LiciaCube obtained this image shortly before it approached the asteroid Dimorphos, after the Dart mission deliberately impacted it in NASA’s first planetary defense test. Credits: Asi / NASA

Phil Schwartz

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