AIM is an ESA mission candidate due for consideration by the December 2016 Council of Ministers.
Launch window: October/November 2020
Maximum mass at launch: 800 kg.
Volume in stowed configuration: 1800x2000x2100 mm
AIM would be ESA's part of the international AIDA mission, which also includes the US DART kinetic impactor.
Arriving in advance of DART, AIM would be humanity’s first mission to a binary system – the Didymos asteroid, which has a secondary twin orbiting around it.
The science performed by AIM promises to provide an understanding of the formation of these binary systems and the determination for the first time of the subsurface and internal structure of an asteroid.
AIM should allow us to understand how a small asteroid in a low-gravity environment responds to external interactions (first from the lander deployment, then the DART impact), which is fundamental for planetary defense.
Following on from Rosetta, AIM would be ESA’s only mission to a small body for the next decade or more. Many lessons learned from Rosetta are being applied to it.
Notably, this will be the first time European CubeSats are flown beyond Earth orbit.
AIM’s Mascot-2 lander, provided by DLR, will make ESA’s first touchdown on a small body since Rosetta’s Philae lander landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
AIM data would support the DART mission, which is targeted at impacting the asteroid. Subsequently, the spacecraft would perform detailed before-and-after studies, charting the asteroid’s momentum transfer and mass redistribution as well as the crater structure and ejecta from its surface.
The deep-space optical communication links, inter-satellite links and low-gravity landing proven by AIM would be crucial for future missions to Mars and its moon Phobos, as well as deep-space crewed missions.