Apophis Mission Design Competition: Results released

Foresight design
14 March 2008

The results of the Planetary Society Apophis Mission Design Competition were released on the 26th February 2008. First place went to the team led by SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia. Both second and third places went to European teams: Deimos Space S.L. of Madrid, Spain, led the team winning second prize and the team that placed third was lead by EADS Astrium Ltd, United Kingdom. There were also several proposals submitted by students from around the world.

Mark G. Schaffer served as Principal Investigator for the SpaceWorks Engineering team which participated in conjunction with SpaceDev, Inc., Poway, California with their mission, entitled Foresight. Juan L. Cano was Principal Investigator for Deimos Space S.L. team who acted in cooperation with EADS Astrium, Friedrichshafen, Germany; University of Stuttgart, Germany; and Universitá di Pisa, Italy. The EADS Astrium Ltd team was lead by Paolo D'Arrigo and involved collaboration with EADS Astrium SAS, France; IASF-Roma, INAF, Rome, Italy; Open University, UK; Rheinisches Institut für Umweltforschung, Germany; Royal Observatory of Belgium; and Telespazio, Italy.

Student Category

The Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta took first place in the student category. Jonathan Sharma, a student in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, was Principal Investigator for a mission design entitled Pharos.

Two teams tied for second place in the Student Category: Monash University, Clayton Campus, Australia, with Dilani Kahawala as Principal Investigator; and University of Michigan, with Jeremy Hollander as Principal Investigator. A team from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, under the leadership of Peter Weiss, received an honorable mention and prize for the most innovative student proposal.

The Apophis Mission Design Competition invited participants to compete for $50,000 in prizes by designing a mission to rendezvous with and "tag" a potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroid. Tagging would allow scientists to track an asteroid accurately enough to determine whether it will impact Earth, thus helping governments decide whether to mount a deflection mission to alter its orbit.

Winning design: Foresight

Foresight mission profile

To keep mission costs low, the winning design, Foresight, proposes a simple orbiter with only two instruments and a radio beacon at a cost of $137.2 million. The spacecraft would launch aboard a Minotaur IV, leaving Earth sometime between 2012 and 2014, to arrive at Apophis five to ten months later. It would then rendezvous with, observe, and track the asteroid. Foresight would orbit the asteroid to gather data with a multi-spectral imager for one month. It would then leave orbit and fly in formation with Apophis around the Sun at a range of two kilometers (1.2 miles). The spacecraft would use laser ranging to the asteroid and radio tracking from Earth for ten months to accurately determine the asteroid's orbit and how it might change.

Winning student design: Pharos

Pharos, the winning student entry, would be an orbiter with four science instruments (a multi-spectral imager, near-infrared spectrometer, laser rangefinder, and magnetometer) that would rendezvous with and track Apophis. Earth-based tracking of the spacecraft would then allow precise tracking of the asteroid. The Pharos spacecraft would also carry four instrumented probes that it would launch individually over the course of two weeks. Accelerometers and temperature sensors on the probes would measure the seismic effects of successive probe impacts, a creative way to explore the interior structure and dynamics of the asteroid

Judging Panel

ESA was one of the sponsors of the Planetary Society Apophis Mission Design Competition and in addition ESA also had three representatives on the judging panel: Ian Carnelli (General Studies Programme), Naomi Murdoch (Advanced Concepts Team)and Stefano Santandrea (D-TEC).

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