Don Quijote (spacecraft)

Don Quijote is a proposed unmanned space mission of ESA. It will pave the way for possible missions whose objective would be to deflect the trajectory of asteroids and other near-Earth objects. The name of the mission and its vehicle derives it from Miguel de Cervantes ' novel Don Quixote.

  • 2.1 Mission Objectives
  • 3.1 Hidalgo
  • 3.2 Sancho


The theoretical planning phase was July by the device for simultaneous product design CDF (Concurrent Design Facility ) of the ESA completed in 2005, so in early 2006 the industrial work could begin on the project.

Currently, the concept study Don Quixote has candidate status. If the ESA choose this mission and decide one is scheduled to start early next decade.

Phase A

Meanwhile, three consortia were awarded the contract to conduct studies to Don Quixote in the initial planning stage.

Thales Alenia Space

The French public limited company Thales Alenia Space forms the main part of this consortium, while the British and Canadian QinetiQ NGC Aerospace represent the junior partner. Various organizations act as a consultant with, among others, the Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario (Italy ), the Osservatorio di Torino astronomico (Italy ), the Observatoire de Paris (France), Università di Roma ( Italy), the University of Michigan ( United States ) and the Observatoire de la Côte d' Azur (France).

EADS Astrium

A subsidiary of EADS, EADS Astrium, leads to the consortium, which also consists of the Spanish EADS CASA Espacio and Deimos Space. It receives support from the University of Pisa (Italy ), the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed ​​Dynamics (Ernst -Mach-Institut ) ( Germany ), the German Centre for Aerospace, the UK Open University and the Spaceguard Foundation.


This two exceptions purely British composite is led by QinetiQ. Under him are the Swedish Space Agency Swedish Space Corporation, the Belgian Verhaert Space, SciSys ( UK) and the Open University.

Target asteroid

From the five to six possible candidates, ESA 2002 AT4 and ( 10302 ) 1989 ML taken into close consideration.

Mission History

The mission will consist of two different, independently launched spacecraft, called Sancho and Hidalgo. Sancho is to fly to the target asteroid and engage there in orbit around it after its launch. During several months of observation period should it be collected through the asteroid various data, which includes, among other trajectory, texture, shape, mass, and self- gravity of the asteroid with a high degree of precision. After Hidalgo is to be started, which is to take a different, more direct path to the asteroid. Sancho is to observe the impact and serve until then at the same time as a relay station for data Hidalgo. From the ejecta of the orbiter will also determine the surface composition of the asteroid. At the same time he will again determine the exact location, direction, rotation, trajectory and speed to determine a deviation caused by Hidalgo.

Then Sancho should drop the lander ASP DeX. After ASP from Sancho was unlatched, the lander is in free fall from about 1 km altitude with about 16 cm / s land on the asteroid. Then he is to himself constantly to his destination, in all probability the Hidalgo Crater, move. There he is to determine the surface composition and surface thermal conductivity.

Mission Objectives

The primary goal of the mission is to bring about an impact on a particular asteroids and to determine the distraction of this. To meet this goal, are still high precise data on location, trajectory, rotation, direction and speed of the asteroid and determined after the impact.

The secondary goal is the experiment ASP DeX (English Autonomous Surface Package Deployment Engineering eXperiment for autonomous landing surface engineering experiment). In this experiment, a small robot, short ASP (Autonomous Surface Package, Autonomous Surface Lander ), are decoupled from the orbiter Sancho and then end up in the free fall of the self- gravity of the asteroid on this. Ideally this should be done near the impact crater of Hidalgo.



The as impactor spacecraft designated probe Hidalgo ( according to the Hidalgo ) is at a relative speed of 10 km / s strike on the target asteroid and deflect it. During the process, to the autonomous targeting, driving and hammering by high-resolution cameras on board are demonstrated. In order to achieve a significant change in path, does not have to be given, but the maximum, a minimum mass, so that the impact experiences a sufficient deflection as opposed to other missions. To take this into account, the drive module is not rejected contrary to the usual practice after reaching the desired velocity, but remains at Hidalgo coupled.

After the start and reaching the maximum speed of Hidalgo will be issued for the longest time of his flight in an idle state. When approaching the target asteroid, the various on-board systems are reactivated.

Hidalgo should have the following properties:

  • High-resolution cameras and advanced computer systems that allow an autonomous optical target acquisition to an accuracy of 50 m
  • No moving parts that could interfere with the attitude and orbit control system
  • It is not a main engine necessary as a quasi- ballistic flight path will be used. Minimal corrections are performed by control nozzles.
  • Cost reduction through use of existing designs. For the basic structure of the probe, the science module of LISA Pathfinder was considered.

Overall, Hidalgo should move in the following mass frame:

  • Dry weight: 532 kg
  • Load: 9 kg
  • Fuel: 1162 kg
  • Total mass: 1694 kg


For the orbiter Sancho (named after Sancho Panza ) it has been proposed for cost reasons, a modified version of the SMART-1 design to ensure the higher energy requirements and the necessary communications with the earth, Hidalgo and ASP. Furthermore, the mission duration is seven years, almost three times of SMART -1. Studies and extrapolations According to this, however, can be compensated by the use of certain materials and shields.

The mass frame of Sancho is:

  • Dry weight: 395 kg
  • Charge: 20.6 kg
  • Fuel: 96 kg
  • Total weight: 491 kg

The technical equipment has to consist of at least one radio science experiment, a laser -based altimeter for the LIDAR, a camera, a data processor for camera and LIDAR and a communication module ( Breit-/Mittel-/Schmalbandantennen ).

To achieve the secondary objective of the mission Sancho be equipped with an IR spectrometer, an infrared camera, an X-ray spectrometer and a radiometer. The ASP DeX belongs to the payload and would result in additional instruments and devices, as Mössbauer spectrometer, mass spectrometer, micro camera, thermal sensor, Beschleunigungs-/Lagesensor.