Aerospace & Defence

Sener space capsule to visit comet in 2029

23rd November 2023
Harry Fowle

Sener will lead the design and manufacture of the space capsule that will visit a pristine comet.

The Comet Interceptor mission of the European Space Agency (ESA), whose launch is scheduled for 2029, will visit for the first time a comet which has never entered the solar system before; the physical and chemical properties of these comets remain unchanged since their formation because they have not approached the Sun, and are thus of great scientific interest.

The Sener engineering and technology group has been selected to lead the design and manufacture of the probe for the Comet Interceptor space science mission of the European Space Agency (ESA), in cooperation with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA). More specifically, Sener has signed a contract with OHB Italia, which leads the mission and the production of its spacecraft. As the main contractor for the design and construction of the space probe – which will be carried from OHB Italia’s spacecraft – Sener will lead an industrial consortium of more than 8 companies from 6 countries, experts in the field of aerospace, such as OHB Italia, SAFT France, MSC Canada, Euro-Composites Luxembourg, and Spain’s Iberespacio.

The mission will be launched in 2029 with the aim of visiting, for the first time in the history of space exploration, a pristine comet, meaning its physical and chemical properties are unchanged since its birth due to never having approached the Sun. “These comets are of great scientific interest”, says Demetrio Zorita, Business Development Manager at Sener, “because they tell us the origin of our world. By exploring their surface, we observe the formation of the solar system and the Earth four and a half billion years ago.”

The target will be a celestial body probably originating in the Oort cloud, a structure located at the limits of the solar system, where fluctuations caused by gravitational forces occasionally hurl some object toward the Sun, making it a periodic comet that has not yet completed an orbit. The Sener capsule will measure just over than half a metre in diameter, just under one metre in height and weigh approximately 40 kg.

It will be carried by the main spacecraft from OHB Italia, responsible for the mission, and separate to perform an approach within a few hundred kilometres of the comet’s nucleus, making scientific observations of plasma, magnetism and radiation in various visible and infrared spectra, while the main spacecraft remains safe a much further distance away. “The mission faces enormous technological challenges, with perhaps the most difficult one being surviving the hostile environment of particles around the comet, with severe limitations on the mass and power available,” says Jose María Fernández Ibarz, Project Manager at Sener.


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