NASA to store pair of probes it's built but can’t send to target asteroids

Janus asteroid sats headed for That Box Full Of Old Tech You Should Probably Have Thrown Out But Kept Just In Case

NASA's Box Full Of Old Tech It Should Probably Have Thrown Out But Kept Just In Case (BFOOTISPHTOBKJIC) was already probably the world's coolest collection of such cruft, but is now set to gain a pair of fully functional space probes it's decided not to launch.

The probes are the two Janus satellites that NASA planned to launch in 2022 as part of the Psyche mission. As The Register has reported, that mission has blown deadline after deadline – including the one for delivery of its flight software – and is now slated for liftoff in October.

The mission will visit an asteroid thought to be comprised of nickel-iron and therefore to resemble Earth's core, perhaps offering insight into how our home and other planets formed.

Janus was a ride-along mission that aimed to send a pair of small satellites to visit binary asteroids – objects humanity is yet to see up close.

NASA describes the sats as "about the size of a carry-on suitcase" but weighing about 36kg apiece. Try sneaking those onto a budget airline!

But we digress. Delays to Psyche's launch meant that the asteroids NASA wanted to visit with Janus moved on. The aerospace agency tried to find new targets for the twin probes, but in November 2022 removed them from the Psyche mission manifest after determining the probes could reach neither their intended target nor any appropriate alternative.

Now NASA has decided what to do with the Janus probes: dump 'em in the BFOOTISPHTOBKJIC.

NASA put it more delicately, writing: "After considering the opportunities and requirements for alternative missions using the twin spacecraft, and the expected resources available to planetary science in the next few years, NASA has decided to stand down further work on the Janus mission."

The agency will therefore "prepare them for storage in the event that future funding may enable an opportunity to utilize the spacecraft." NASA secured a budget of $55 million for Janus and appears to have kept costs below the $50 million mark. Contracted work will be completed – good news for Lockheed Martin, which made the craft using a design it's employed for other commercial projects.

NASA operates a property disposal management policy and programs to loan some of its artifacts available to museums and educational institutions.

So if anyone has a use for Janus, NASA's clearly not using it any time soon. ®

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