Redwire sun sensor technology is continuing to advance science and discovery onboard planetary missions to deepen humanity’s understanding of our solar system. Through a contract from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Redwire will supply critical navigation technology for NASA’s groundbreaking Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The Digital Sun Sensor system onboard Dragonfly will enable the spacecraft, slated to launch no earlier than 2027, to travel roughly 3.6 billion miles to Titan, where it will sample and examine dozens of sites to advance humanity’s search for the building blocks of life.
The Digital Sun Sensor system, consisting of two Digital Sun Sensor heads and its related electronics, will provide sun angle information to the Dragonfly spacecraft’s guidance and control computer as it traverses from Earth to Titan. Since Titan is about 886 million miles from the Sun, getting accurate sun angle data during flight will require the advanced capabilities of the sun sensor. The Digital Sun Sensor has three separate gain settings that give it enough dynamic range to determine sun angle from launch until the spacecraft arrives at Titan.
The Dragonfly mission has the potential to shed light on the chemistry behind the development of complex organic matter needed for life and expand humanity’s knowledge of life in our solar system. This will be the first time NASA will fly this kind of vehicle in the atmosphere of another world. The autonomous octocopter rotorcraft will study multiple locations on Titan to sample surface material and investigate compositions and the chemistry at work there, which may produce some of the chemical building blocks of life. Having detailed data on the chemistry of Titan will also tell us more about the kinds of processes that occurred on Earth billions of years ago and could provide valuable insight into the possibility of life on other planetary bodies.
Redwire’s Digital Sun Sensor has enabled a variety of missions and spacecraft, including multiple missions to Mars such as Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers A and B, Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover and Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Redwire’s suite of sensors have also flown on the IRIS mission, Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, New Horizons to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, MESSENGER to Mercury, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, NASA’s Artemis I mission, and many other game-changing missions.
Learn more about how Redwire’s digital sun sensor technology onboard the DART spacecraft enabled the first planetary defense test mission here.