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Industry Study: Laser Altimeter for Marco Polo

Artists conception of Marco Polo sampling a Near-Earth Asteroid
Artists conception of Marco Polo sampling a Near-Earth Asteroid

The Marco Polo mission, currently under study in the context of ESA’s Cosmic Vision Program, is foreseen to rendezvous with a NEA (Near-Earth Asteroid) and to return a sample from it to Earth. Before sampling, the spacecraft will fly in formation with the asteroid to undertake a comprehensive study of the object by a host of remote sensing techniques.

One of the spacecraft’s main instruments is a Laser Altimeter LAMP (Laser Altimeter for Marco Polo). The instrument is designed to determine ranges to the target by measuring the round-trip time-of-flight of short Laser pulses. Ultimately, the instrument will derive global shape models of the asteroid and study its rotational motion. Also, surface roughness and albedo will be studied. In addition, during dedicated calibration sessions, two-way range measurements to terrestrial ground stations will be carried out. Both types of measurements combined will help studying gravity field parameters of the asteroid and will help maneuvering the spacecraft in the irregular gravity field of the object.

An international team is currently leading an investigation in performance requirements and design of such an instrument. In this context, the Technical University Berlin is managing an Industry Study, which is carried out by Active Space Technology, resident in Berlin. This industry study is supported by the German Aerospace Center (Agency) and is carried out in collaboration with the DLR Institute of Planetary Science.

Study Team:

Prof. Jürgen Oberst (Study Lead), Technical University Berlin, Institute for Geodesy and Geoinformation Science, D

Dipl.-Ing Kay Lingenauber, Dr. Harald Michaelis, and Dr. S. Mottola, German Aerospace Center, Institute of Planetary Research, D

Dr. Karsten Seiferlin and Prof. Nicolas Thomas, University Berne, Physikalisches Institut, Division of Space Research and Planetary Science, CH

Priv.-Doz. Dr. Reinald Kallenbach, Max-Planck Institute of Solar System Research, D

Dr. Maria Rosaria Santovito, Consortium for Research on Advanced Remote Sensing Systems, I


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