NASA confirms Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s moon Titan for 2028

An artist’s illustration of Dragonfly flying over the dunes of Saturn’s moon Titan
An artist’s illustration of Dragonfly flying over the dunes of Saturn’s moon Titan. (Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

NASA’s revolutionary Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s moon Titan is scheduled to launch in July 2028.

Dragonfly is NASA’s rotorcraft lander mission, meaning it can land like a spacecraft and fly like a large drone. 

The size of the Dragonfly is about 12.5 feet (3.85 meters) long, 12.5 feet (3.85 meters) wide, and more than 5.5 feet (1.75 meters) tall. It weighs about 1,900 pounds (875 kilograms) and has eight rotors, each of which is 53 inches (1.35 meters) long. 

Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. It has an icy surface and a subsurface global ocean beneath its icy crust layer. Like our Earth, it has a nitrogen-based atmosphere, and unlike our Earth, it has clouds and rains of methane. The abundance of organic compounds makes Titan an ideal place to explore potential habitability outside of our Earth.

Dragonfly will land at the equatorial “Shangri-La” dune fields of Titan in 2034, which are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia in southern Africa and offer a diverse sampling location.

The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan, traveling to cover areas several hundred kilometers away from its initial landing site during its planned 3.3-year mission.

Dragonfly will use nuclear power, a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), as it is unable to use solar power due to the dense atmosphere of Titan. Titan’s atmosphere is four times denser than Earth’s.

The main objective of the Dragonfly mission is to study how far the formation of life from organic compounds has progressed on Titan.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, manages this mission for NASA, and currently the rotorcraft is in the process of completing its final design. NASA set $3.35 billion for the cost of the Dragonfly mission.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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