Comet Interceptor

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Comet Interceptor
Mission goal Comet or interstellar object
Client ESA
Launcher Ariane 62
Takeoff mass <1000 kg
10 instruments on 3 partial probes
Course of the mission
Start date 2028 Template: future / in 5 yearswith ARIEL (planned)
launch pad Guyana Space Center , ELA-4

The Comet Interceptor is a planned three-part space probe as part of ESA's Cosmic Vision program . The probe should study a new comet or interstellar object in 2028 at the earliest . Template: future / in 5 years

Scientific goals

Comets change under the influence of solar radiation. By examining a comet for the first time that has never approached the sun, insights should be gained that were not possible with earlier comet probes .

Interstellar objects have not yet been explored at all. Until the Comet Interceptor program started, only one had been identified with 1I / ʻOumuamua .

Preparation and process

The mission was proposed in 2018 and selected for implementation in June 2019.

The probe is scheduled to launch Template: future / in 5 yearstogether with the ARIEL space telescope in 2028 and be parked at the Lagrange point L 2 of the Earth-Moon system. From there, as soon as an opportunity arises, it should fly on to a suitable target object, which can take months or years. Parking the ready-to-use probe is critical to the success of the mission, as new comets are discovered relatively quickly; there is not enough time to prepare and start a probe.

The three parts of the Comet Interceptors are separate from each other before reaching the target and the object in the flyby examine from different perspectives.


The planned Comet Interceptor consists of the main probe A and the two smaller probes B1 and B2. B1 is contributed by the Japanese Space Agency . The following instruments are planned:

A probe

  • Comet Camera (CoCa), a high resolution camera
  • Multispectral InfraRed Molecular and Ices Sensor (Mirmis), an infrared sensor designed to measure radiation emitted by the comet and examine the composition of the coma
  • Dust, Field, and Plasma (DFP), an instrument used to study dust and magnetosphere around the comet

B1 probe

  • Hydrogen Imager (HI), a UV camera for examining the hydrogen gas cloud around the comet
  • Plasma Suite (PS), an instrument used to study the plasma and magnetic field around the comet
  • Wide Angle Camera (WAC), a camera with a wide angle lens for close-up shots of the comet's nucleus

B2 probe

  • Optical Imager for Comets (OPIC), a camera for taking pictures of comet nuclei and dust jets in the visible and infrared spectrum
  • Mass Analyzer for Neutrals and Ions at Comets (Maniac), a mass spectrometer for examining the gases emitted by the comet
  • Entire Visible Sky coma mapper (Enviss), an instrument for taking pictures of the comet and its surroundings
  • Dust, Field, and Plasma (DFP), corresponds to the DFP instrument of the A-probe

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