Dragonfly is the name of the mission that will see NASA send a rotorcraft to Saturn’s moon Titan. Dragonfly was originally scheduled to launch in 2026, and NASA has requested the team working on the project to move to an alternate launch readiness date in 2027. NASA points out that no changes will be needed to the mission architecture to accommodate the new launch date.
Launching a year later won’t affect Dragonfly’s science return or capabilities once at Titan. The reason the mission has been delayed is based on factors that are external to the Dragonfly project team. NASA specifically cites COVID-19’s impact on the Planetary Science Divisions budget. The space agency says it has the utmost confidence in the Dragonfly team and their ability to deliver a successful mission.
One goal of Dragonfly is to increase our understanding of Titan’s richly organic world and help answer key astrobiology questions in the search to understand the processes that supported the development of life on Earth. The Dragonfly mission marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet.
Titan has an extremely dense atmosphere, four times denser than the Earth’s, making flight possible. Dragonfly will also become the first vehicle to ever fly its entire science payload to multiple locations for repeatable and targeted access to minerals on Titan’s surface.
Flight will allow the Dragonfly mission to survey dozens of locations across the icy world. Dragonfly will be able to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment and investigate the Moon’s prebiotic chemistry. NASA does have a rotorcraft going to Mars, but it’s unclear at this time if that rotorcraft will be able to fly due to Mars’ atmosphere.