In 2019, the European Space Agency (E.S.A.) selected Comet Interceptor as the new F-class. When “speed” refers to the speed of development, these machines take about eight years to launch fully. The ultimate goal of mechanical science is to produce, for the first time, a comet or something in between stars.
The Comet Interceptor builds three spacecraft with a spaceship and two more miniature probes. Each will be fitted with different suits of scientific tools for better analysis of the target. For example, Spacecraft A will install CoCa (Comet Camera) to capture high-resolution nucleus images of the target at several wavelengths. Spacecraft B1 will have an H.I. (Hydrogen Imager) ultraviolet camera to study the cloud of hydrogen gas around a comet. In Spacecraft B2, the primary tool will be OPIC (Optical Imager for Comets) to map the nucleus and its dust jets with different visible waves and infrared waves.
E.S.A.’s work Comet Interceptor ‘recently adopted’; The learning phase is over and, following the selection of the main space contractor, work will soon begin to build a project, the purpose of which is to visit a comet or other star-studded object that begins its journey into the Solar Solar System.
Comet Interceptor will share space travel with Ariel exoplanet’s E.S.A. mission in 2029. The goal will build on the success of Rosetta and Giotto, E.S.A. projects that visited both ‘short-term’ comets. Although these devices completely changed our understanding of comets, their intended purpose was already orbiting the Sun many times, and as a result, they have changed dramatically since their creation.
Comet Interceptor aims to explore a comet that spends little time in the internal Solar System or may be visiting it for the first time. While Rosetta’s goal is based on the rocky Kuiper Belt across Neptune, Comet Interceptors can emerge from the giant Oort Cloud, more than a thousand times from the Sun.
Although rare, a different target could be an ‘interstellar interloper’ outside the Solar System – something like ‘Oumuamua flying suddenly past the Sun in 2017. Reading something like that can allow you to explore whether a comet-like body formed and evolved into other star systems.
E.S.A. approved Comet Interceptor during a Science Program Agency Committee meeting on June 8, 2022. E.S.A. leads the missions with the support of the Japan Space Agency (JAXA).