Artist’s impression of Dragonfly soaring over the dunes of Saturn’s moon Titan. NASA has authorized the mission team to proceed on development toward a July 2028 launch date.Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

NASA has approved Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel to proceed with Dragonfly, a rotorcraft mission to explore Saturn’s moon Titan.

The decision, announced April 16, allows the mission to progress to completion of final design, followed by construction and testing of the spacecraft and its science instruments.

“Dragonfly is a spectacular science mission with broad community interest, and we are excited to take the next steps on this mission,” said Nicky Fox, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Exploring Titan will push the boundaries of what we can do with rotorcraft outside of Earth.”

Led by APL, the Dragonfly spacecraft will launch to Titan in 2028. NASA confirmed Dragonfly with a total life-cycle cost of $3.35 billion and a launch readiness date of July 2028.

Following a roughly six-year interplanetary journey, the car-sized lander will fly between dozens of landing sites on Titan’s surface to advance our understanding of the chemical origins of life. The mobile eight-rotored lander that will fly autonomously is expected to achieve critical planetary science and astrobiology objectives as well as advance aeronautics and space technology.

“The Dragonfly mission is an incredible opportunity to explore an ocean world in a way that we have never done before,” said Dragonfly Principal Investigator Elizabeth Turtle of APL. “The team is dedicated and enthusiastic about accomplishing this unprecedented investigation of the complex carbon chemistry that exists on the surface of Titan and the innovative technology bringing this first-of-its-kind space mission to life.”

The Dragonfly team includes key partners at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt; Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colo.; Sikorsky in Connecticut; NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Calif.; NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; Penn State University in State College, Pa.; Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, Calif.; Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, Calif.; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California; CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) in Paris; the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, Germany; and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) in Tokyo.

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