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Dragonfly Rotorcraft Mission to Saturn's Titan Moves into Final Design Phase
Artist's Impression of Dragonfly on the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
Dragonfly Rotorcraft Mission to Saturn's Titan Moves into Final Design Phase
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Nov 29, 2023

NASA's ambitious Dragonfly mission, aiming to send a groundbreaking rotorcraft to Saturn's moon Titan, has recently been given the green light to proceed into its next critical phase. Entering Phase C, the mission will focus on finalizing its design and fabrication during the fiscal year (FY) 2024. However, NASA has delayed the formal confirmation of the mission, including its total cost and schedule, until mid-2024, following the release of the FY 2025 President's Budget Request.

The Dragonfly mission represents a significant step forward in planetary exploration. Earlier this year, it successfully met all the success criteria of its Preliminary Design Review. The team, adapting to the expected funding available in FY 2024, has projected a revised launch readiness date of July 2028. This timeframe is subject to official assessment by the Agency Program Management Council in mid-2024.

Nicola Fox, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, expressed her admiration for the team's resilience, stating, "The Dragonfly team has successfully overcome a number of technical and programmatic challenges in this daring endeavor to gather new science on Titan. I am proud of this team and their ability to keep all aspects of the mission moving toward confirmation."

Dragonfly's mission to Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is not just another space venture. Titan is an analog to the early Earth in many ways, possessing a dense atmosphere and surface liquid reservoirs, mainly consisting of methane and ethane. This makes it a prime candidate for studying prebiotic chemistry and the conditions for life.

The Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander is a novel approach in space exploration. For the first time, such a vehicle will be used to travel between and sample diverse sites on Titan. The mission's objectives are ambitious: to characterize the habitability of Titan's environment, investigate the progression of prebiotic chemistry, and potentially search for signs of past water-based or hydrocarbon-based life.

This mission is part of NASA's New Frontiers program, which focuses on exploring our solar system with cost-effective, yet highly capable spacecraft. The decision to advance Dragonfly to Phase C underscores NASA's commitment to exploring the most intriguing and scientifically rich destinations in our solar system.

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