|Nation||United States of America (USA)|
|Objective||Orbiter to Search for Near-Earth Asteroids (NEOs)|
|Spacecraft||Near-Earth Object Surveyor, or NEO Surveyor|
|Mission Design & Management||NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO)/ NASA Planetary Science Division/NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center/University of Arizona/JPL/Caltech/IPAC|
|Launch Date||Early 2026|
|Launch Site||Kennedy Space Center, Florida|
|Scientific Instrument||Nearly 20-inch (50-centimeter) diameter telescope that operates in two heat-sensing infrared wavelengths|
First space mission specifically designed for discovering hazardous asteroids and comets
July 11, 2021: NASA approves moving NEO Surveyor into the preliminary design phase
Jan. 2023: Projected date for NEO Surveyor to transition to the next mission phase, which is the final design and fabrication of the spacecraft
Early 2026: Projected launch date
In Depth: NEO Surveyor
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Surveyor Mission, or NEO Surveyor, is a space telescope that will help improve NASA’s planetary defense efforts to discover most of the potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles (48 million kilometers) of Earth’s orbit. These objects are collectively known as near-Earth objects, or NEOs. NEO Surveyor is scheduled to launch in early 2026.
No known NEO poses a significant risk of impacting Earth in the next 100 years, but unknown NEOs – like the one in the 2013 Chelyabinsk event in Russia – could present a hazard.
NEO Surveyor consists of a single scientific instrument: a nearly 20-inch (50-centimeter) diameter telescope that operates in two heat-sensing infrared wavelengths. It will be capable of detecting both bright and dark asteroids, which are the most difficult type to find.
By using sensors that operate in the infrared, NEO Surveyor will be able to make accurate measurements of NEO sizes and will gain valuable information about their composition, shapes, rotational states, and orbits. The telescope also will help planetary scientists discover NEOs more quickly.
“By searching for NEOs closer to the direction of the Sun, NEO Surveyor will help astronomers discover impact hazards that could approach Earth from the daytime sky,” said Amy Mainzer, survey director for NEO Surveyor at the University of Arizona.
Mainzer, who is also the principal investigator for NASA’s asteroid-hunting NEOWISE Project, said NEO Surveyor would improve NASA’s ability to determine the size and other characteristics of newly discovered NEOs.
This information is vital to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). The PDCO needs to learn about potentially hazardous NEOs as early as possible to either prevent an impact with Earth, or to try to minimize the damage from an impact. (NASA will test one planetary defense deflection technology with its Double Asteroid Redirection Test, DART, mission.)
“NEO Surveyor will have the capability to rapidly accelerate the rate at which NASA is able to discover asteroids and comets that could pose a hazard to the Earth, and it is being designed to discover 90 percent of asteroids 140 meters in size or larger within a decade of being launched,” said Mike Kelley, NEO Surveyor program scientist at NASA Headquarters.
After launch, NEO Surveyor will conduct a five-year baseline survey to find at least two-thirds of the potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids larger than 460 feet (140 meters). These are the objects large enough to cause major regional damage if they impacted Earth.
The NEO Surveyor mission is led by the University of Arizona. The spacecraft is being developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It is managed by NASA’s Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, with program oversight by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO).