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British engineers build spacecraft “chase” the comet

The new spacecraft is scheduled to launch into orbit in 2028, then wait for the appropriate target to pass through to approach and research.

British engineers develop a new model to wait for the comet to pass, chase and 3-dimensional mapping its surface, Guardian reported on December 14. The mission is called the Comet Interceptor, also known as the “comet pursuer”. In addition to the comet’s surface, the new mission will also study the composition of dust and gas that it spews out while traveling.

Comet Interceptor consists of three spacecraft in coordination. The mother ship, built by Thales Alenia Space in the UK, will carry two smaller Japanese exploration ships. The two ships could be dropped near the comet to conduct close-to-surface research flights. They will then send images and scientific data back to the mother ship.

Comets are frozen spheres of cosmic gas, rocks and dust from the early solar system, about 4.6 billion years ago. Many comets are discovered as they pass near the Sun, warming up, releasing dust and creating long tail trails.

With the Comet Interceptor, astronomers hope to be able to catch up with the comets before they release so much dust. This helped the probe duo map and analyze pristine comet cores.

“Most of the comets that we observe have passed through the Sun many times, which means they are transformed by the Sun. The new mission of sending a spaceship into orbit, makes it possible for us to study a remaining object. This gives new information about the solar system’s past, “said Andrew Stanniland, CEO of Thales Alenia Space.

Comet Interceptor plans to launch into space in 2028. The ship will wander at Lagrange Point, where gravity tends to keep the object at rest. As a result, the ship can wait for its target with very little fuel.

The Comet Interceptor will likely have to wait in orbit for several years before astronomers find a suitable target. The target would be a comet from the Oort Cloud – a collection of frozen objects outside of Neptune, or an interstellar traveling object like ‘Oumuamua. This elongated object visited the Solar System in 2017. However, astronomers at that time had no spacecraft capable of following it to study.

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