The MILO Space Science Institute: Demonstrating a New Paradigm for Deep Space Science Missions

Author: Jim Bell

Description: The MILO Space Science Institute is a non-profit deep space science mission collaboration formed in 2018 between Arizona State University and Lockheed Martin. The primary goals of MILO are: (1) Enable collaboration in deep space science missions by a consortium of domestic and international partners; (2) Provide affordable access to deep space science missions via a member-based cost-share model and leveraging lower cost mission concepts; and (3) Provide hands-on experience for members, helping to train the next generation of scientists and engineers by offering workforce development, technology demonstrations, and advancement of scientific discoveries. Methods: MILO is planning two SmallSat missions and one lunar surface mission as initial pathfinder and proof-of-concept demonstrations. The Smallsat missions, NEOShare and Apophis Pathfinder, are designed to provide new scientific and Planetary Defense knowledge about small Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). NEOShare would deploy six SmallSats to perform close flybys of up to eight NEOs as they pass close to the Earth, substantially expanding the diversity of NEOs that have been characterized by spacecraft. Apophis Pathfinder would consist of two SmallSats that perform a close flyby of Potentially Hazardous Object (99942) Apophis several years before its extremely close Earth encounter in 2029. This mission would provide initial reconnaissance data that could help to inform and optimize other missions being designed to encounter that asteroid before, during, and after its 2029 Earth flyby. Both NEO missions would be equipped with dedicated propulsion, communications, power, and other critical subsystems, and include scientific payloads consisting of cameras, spectrometers, or other high-heritage SmallSat instrumentation. The lunar surface mission would provide members with the ability to fly payloads on a Lockheed Commercial Lunar Payload Services lander, tapping into the lander’s power, data, and telecommunications systems to relay results back to Earth.   Conclusions: There has been substantial international interest in MILO and a number of agreements for member involvement have been signed with universities, space agencies, and commercial space companies. Pertinent to this Symposium: While our focus has been on solar system exploration, the MILO concept could easily be extended to a consortium of members interested in conducting science-driven interstellar exploration as well.