NASA Dragonfly Launch Delayed – Revolutionary Mission to Saturn’s Moon Titan

Dragonfly is a rotorcraft lander mission – part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program – designed to take advantage of Titan’s environment to sample materials and determine surface composition in different geologic settings. This revolutionary mission concept includes the capability to explore diverse locations to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment, to investigate how far prebiotic chemistry has progressed, and even to search for chemical signatures that could indicate water-based and/or hydrocarbon-based life. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

Dragonfly is a NASA mission that delivers a rotorcraft to Saturn’s moon Titan to advance our search for the building blocks of life. While Dragonfly was originally scheduled to launch in 2026, NASA has requested the Dragonfly team pursue their alternative launch readiness date in 2027. No changes will be needed to the mission architecture to accommodate this new date, and launching at a later date will not affect Dragonfly’s science return or capabilities once at Titan.

The decision to pursue the alternative launch date is based on factors external to the Dragonfly project team, including COVID-19’s impact on the Planetary Science Division’s budget.

Artist’s Impression of Dragonfly on Titan’s surface. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

“NASA has the utmost confidence in the Dragonfly team to deliver a successful mission that conducts compelling science,” said Lori Glaze, Director for the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Dragonfly will significantly increase our understanding of this richly organic world and help answer key astrobiology questions in our search to understand the processes that supported the development of life on Earth.”

Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet. Taking advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – it will also become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to multiple locations for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials. By surveying dozens of locations across the icy world, Dragonfly will characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment and investigate the progression of its prebiotic chemistry.

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