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NEOCam (the Near-Earth Object Camera) is a proposed space-based infrared telescope designed to survey the Solar System for potentially hazardous asteroids.[1] Proposals for NEOCam were submitted in 2006, 2010, and 2015 to the NASA Discovery Program. In 2010, NEOCam was selected to receive technology development funding to design and test new detectors optimized for asteroid and comet detection and discovery.[2][3] NEOCam would survey from the Earth–Sun L1 Lagrange point, allowing it to look close to the Sun and see objects inside Earth's orbit.[4][5]

On 30 September 2015, NASA's Discovery Program selected NEOCam along with other four mission concepts for refinement during the next year. Each mission received $3 million for a one-year study. The winner will be chosen in September 2016,[6] and must be ready to launch by the end of 2021.[7][8] NEOCam would be the successor of NEOWISE mission. The principal investigator is Amy Mainzer of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).[9]

OverviewEdit

The primary scientific goal of NEOCam is to discover and characterize the orbit of most of the potentially hazardous asteroids larger than 140 meters over the course of its 4-year mission. NEOCam's field of view is large enough to allow the mission to discover tens of thousands of new NEOs with sizes as small as 30 m (Template:Convert/round ft) in diameter.[10] Secondary science goals include detection and characterization of approximately one million asteroids in the asteroid belt and thousands of comets.[11] In the event that a potential impactor is discovered, officials at NASA Headquarters will be immediately notified according to standard procedures already in place.

Scientific payloadEdit

The scientific payload consists of an infrared telescope and a wide-field camera operating at two thermal infrared wavelengths.[11] The mission would likely use a special mercury–cadmium–telluride detector called HgCdTe Astronomical Wide Area Infrared Imager (HAWAII) in development by Teledyne.[12] This detector has good infrared performance without the use of a cryogenic fluid refrigeration.[12] NEOcam will keep relatively cool by operating at the L1 Lagrange point and employing a Sun shield. The prototype sensor was successfully tested in April 2013.[13]

Optical communicationsEdit

If selected for launch, the mission may use the Deep Space Optical Communications option.[14] This option gives a cash bonus for using lasers to communicate with Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon.[14][15] The laser communication package is not required, but, if included on NEOCam, would grant an additional 30 million USD bonus on top of the base (450 million USD) budget.[15] One of the reasons for interest in optical communication in space is the potential for a dramatic increased data rate; the OPALS program achieved transferring a video in 3.5 seconds that traditionally would have taken 10 minutes (this was from Earth's surface to ISS's orbit).[16] The LADEE mission previously tested two-way free-space optical communication from lunar orbit in 2013.

ImagesEdit

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids 2013

Plot of orbits of known potentially hazardous asteroids (size over 460 feet (Template:Convert/round m) and passing within 4.7 Template:Convert/SpellnumSrtLoff6Template:Convert/engout/n0 (Template:Scinote/e km) of Earth's orbit) as of early 2013. (alternate image).

NEA 1 km or more

Bar graph by the US Space program, which shows NEOs over 1 km in diameter discovered each year

See alsoEdit

Discovery program semi-finalists with this mission
NEOs search projects
Related topics

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

Template:Discovery Template:Space observatories Template:Planetary defense

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