NASA to Store Janus Spacecraft, Mission to Study Asteroid Systems

After a launch postponement made its primary science targets inaccessible to the spacecraft, NASA has concluded the Janus mission and directed the project to prepare the spacecraft for long-term storage.

Designed to send twin small satellite spacecraft to study two separate binary asteroid systems, Janus was originally a ride-along on the Psyche mission’s scheduled 2022 launch. Psyche’s new October 2023 launch period, however, cannot deliver the two spacecraft to the mission’s original targets, and Janus was subsequently removed from the manifest.

After considering the opportunities and requirements for alternative missions using the twin spacecraft, and the expected resources available to planetary science in the next few years, NASA has decided to stand down further work on the Janus mission. The project will complete the contracted work remaining on the two spacecraft and then prepare them for storage in the event that future funding may enable an opportunity to utilize the spacecraft.

Janus was selected as part of NASA’s SIMPLEx (Small, Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration) program, which provides opportunities for low-cost, high risk science missions to ride-share with selected primary missions. These lower cost missions serve as an ideal platform for technical and architecture innovation, contributing to NASA’s science research and technology development objectives.

SIMPLEx mission investigations are managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as part of the Discovery Program at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington.