NASA’s Planetary Defense Mission NEO Surveyor Successfully Passes Key Milestone
NASA officials have confirmed NASA’s Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope (NEO Surveyor) – the next flight mission out of the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) – after completing a rigorous technical and programmatic review, known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C). This establishes NASA’s commitment to the mission’s technical, cost, and schedule baseline.
As a result of this decision, NASA is committed to a development cost baseline of $1.2 billion and to be ready for a launch no later than June 2028. The cost and schedule commitments outlined at KDP-C align the NEO Surveyor mission with program management best practices that account for potential technical risks and budgetary uncertainty beyond the development project’s control.
NEO Surveyor is an infrared space telescope designed to help advance NASA’s planetary defense efforts. It does this by expediting the agency’s ability to discover and characterize at least 90% of the potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit. These are collectively known as near-earth objects, or NEOs. NEO Surveyor’s successful completion of this review furthers NASA’s commitment to planetary defense and the search for NEOs that could one day pose an impact threat to Earth.
NEO Surveyor will consist of a single scientific instrument: a 50-centimeter (nearly 20-inch) diameter telescope that operates in two heat-sensing infrared wavelengths. It will be capable of detecting both bright and dark asteroids, which are the most difficult type to find.
The flight mission, which falls under the agency’s Planetary Science Division within the Science Mission directorate, is being developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, and the survey investigation is led by the University of Arizona. NASA’s Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center provides NEO Surveyor program management, and program oversight is provided by the PDCO, which was established in 2016 to manage the agency‘s ongoing efforts in Planetary Defense.