The primary objective of the Italian ArgoMoon cubesat was to image the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) after being jettisoned from it.

Argotec engineers noticed the inability of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage to send telemetry during the CubeSat deployment phase, which occurs a few hours after the separation of the Orion spacecraft. It was this issue that triggered Argotec to propose a satellite capable of performing a proximity flight with the ICPS, able to take photographs and provide an inspection to confirm the success of CubeSat deployment.

Since then, images of the Earth and the Moon from the spacecraft have been released.

However there is still no image of its primary target, the ICPS. Did something go wrong?


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The following link suggests that the task was completed, but it seems that the PR side of the operation released images only of the Earth and the Moon to the public, and chose not to release those from the primary mission, for reasons not explained.

Like you, I, and others (noticed a tweet questioning why ArgoMoon favored photographing the Earth and the Moon instead of the ICPS - related to the AI object-recognition programming perhaps, or just PR press releases? ) noticed there were no pictures forthcoming.

The time I noticed ICPS mentioned with ArgoMoon in the same sentence after deployment was this article:



Artemis 1 viaggia verso la Luna. Luca Parmitano: “Spero che prima o poi sarà la mia Orion”

Il nuovo razzo lunare della Nasa ha messo in orbita il veicolo spaziale Orion e il suo Modulo di Servizio Europeo

“Ho avuto la reale consapevolezza di cosa sarebbe accaduto in queste ore solo entrando in azienda qualche settimana fa” - confida Avino – i nostri tecnici erano tranquilli, ma i compiti di ArgoMoon erano senza precedenti”. Dotato di sottosistemi avanzati e miniaturizzati dentro i suoi 14 chilogrammi di massa complessiva, grazie a un software basato sull’intelligenza artificiale ArgoMoon ha riconosciuto gli oggetti nel suo campo visivo, effettuato in maniera autonoma manovre orbitali e di assetto, per mantenersi alla distanza corretta e catturare immagini, che, criptate, ha inviato a terra appena possibile. “In quel momento eravamo a circa 40mila chilometri dalla Terra – continua Avino – e una volta individuata la posizione dell’Icps, ArgoMoon lo ha avvicinato per iniziare a riprenderlo. È stata un’operazione difficile, visto che di solito la messa in funzione di un satellite – il commissioning - può sfruttare diversi giorni per la verifica di ogni sistema di bordo. Per iniziare a lavorare, invece, ArgoMoon ha avuto pochi minuti, in cui ha dovuto attivare i suoi pannelli solari, capire dov’era e stabilizzarsi attraverso uno star-tracker, quindi intercettare l’Icps e andarlo a riprendere da una distanza di sicurezza, a 500 metri”.

While Orion travels to the Moon, ArgoMoon has accomplished its main tasks. Operated from the two Control Rooms in Turin, the cubesat, a 10x30x20 cm parallelepiped, provided NASA with visual confirmation of the correct execution of the Icps operations, which at the time of freeing the satellites could not send signals to the Earth.

“ I had the real awareness of what was going to happen in these hours only by joining the company a few weeks ago ” - confides David Avino (founder of Argotec and its CEO) – our technicians were calm, but ArgoMoon's tasks were unprecedented ”. Equipped with advanced and miniaturized subsystems within its 14 kilograms of total mass, thanks to a software based on artificial intelligence ArgoMoon has recognized the objects in its field of vision, autonomously carried out orbital and attitude maneuvers, to keep itself at the correct distance and capture images, which, encrypted, sent to the ground as soon as possible. “ At that moment we were about 40,000 kilometers from the Earth – continues Avino –and once the position of the Icps was identified, ArgoMoon approached it to start filming it. It was a difficult operation, given that usually the commissioning of a satellite can take several days to verify each on-board system. Instead, ArgoMoon had a few minutes to start working , in which it had to activate its solar panels, figure out where it was and stabilize itself through a star-tracker, then intercept the Icps and pick it up from a safe distance. 500 meters".

But no pictures to accompany it.


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