NASA Tests Dragonfly, its Spacecraft that Will Explore a Moon of Saturn
As NASA focuses on returning to the Moon and preparing for future missions to Mars, the space agency is also looking even farther into space to explore other worlds. This week, NASA authorized the design and manufacture of Dragonfly, a nuclear-powered drone the size of a car that will explore Titan, Saturn’s mysterious moon.
Dragonfly, a mission unique to NASA, is designed to investigate the complex chemistry that may be the precursor to life on Titan. Equipped with cameras, sensors, and samplers, Dragonfly will examine areas of Titan known to contain organic materials that may have been mixed with liquid water and are now frozen on the moon’s surface.
The Dragonfly team has made significant technical advances, including testing guidance, navigation, and control systems in California deserts that resemble the dunes of Titan and conducting flight system tests in NASA’s Langley Research Center. The team has also run simulations using atmospheric pressure and temperature in APL’s new Titan Chamber.
With a proposed launch date of July 2028, Dragonfly will be NASA’s first helicopter landing mission to explore an ocean world. It will travel over 175 kilometers on Titan, reaching areas with diverse geography and stopping to sample fascinating regions before reaching the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of water, organic matter, and energy – all of which are vital for life.
The Dragonfly mission is a collaboration between various organizations, including NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Lockheed Martin Space, Sikorsky, NASA Ames Research Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This groundbreaking mission demonstrates NASA’s commitment to exploring new frontiers and pushing the boundaries of space exploration.