TOPICS @ ACTIVE MISSIONS
All NASA missions progress through phases A to F, as early concept studies (A), operational or prime phase (E) and end of life (F).
NASA down selected two missions, Lucy and Psyche, based upon their mission concept study reports to enter Phase B. These will be the Discovery missions 13 and 14 presuming a successful formulation phase. LEARN MORE about Phases
NEW DISCOVERY MISSION
PSYCHE: JOURNEY TO A METAL WORLD
The C and the S types are the most common asteroids founded in-space. They includes some organic compounds, water-ice or stony/metal combination. Psyche is made only of metal!
The mission was chosen by NASA on January 4, 2017, as one of two missions for the agency's Discovery Program, which provide a series of low-coast missions to solar system targets.
The asteroid Psyche orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter. NASA think that, the asteroid is most likely a survivor of many violent hit-and-run collisions, common when the solar system was forming. Thus, psyche may be able to give some insights about how the Earth's core and cores of other terrestrial planets came to be. It follows an orbit in the outer part of the main asteroid belt at an average distance from the sun of 3 astronomical units (AU).
With dimensions of 279 X 232 X 189 kilometers, Psyche is relatively large and has an irregular shape. Its high density, estimated at about 7,000 kg/m³, came from its constituents of nickel-iron.
The Psyche spacecraft is scheduled to be launched in summer 2022 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. For its cruise, it will use a Solar Electric System for the Mars Flyby in 2023 and reached Psyche 16, 3.5 years later. Then, the spacecraft will arrive in asteroid's orbit in 2026, and orbit it until 2027, means during 21 months. In place, it will mapping and studying the asteroid's properties.
The Psyche Multispectral Imager (above)
A team based at the Arizona State University will operate the Multispectral Imager. This instrument is made of a pair of identical cameras designed to acquire geologic, compositional, and topographic data. In fact, their filters will be able to discriminate between Psych's metallic and silicate constituents.
Psyche Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer
The Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer is mounted on a 2-m boom to distance the sensors from background radiation created by energetic particles interacting with the spacecraft. By its location, the instrument provide an unobstructed field of view and will detect, measure, and map Psyche's elemental composition. The team is based at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.
The Psyche Magnetometer is designed to detect and measure the remanent magnetic field of the asteroid. It is composed of two identical high-sensitivity magnetic field sensors located at the middle and outer end of a 2-m boom. The team is based at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the University of California Los Angeles.
The Psyche mission will use the X-band radio telecommunications system to measure Psyche's gravity field to high precision. When combined with topography derived from on-board imagery, this will provide information on the interior structure of Psyche. The team is based at MIT and JPL.
Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC)
The Psyche mission will test a sophisticated new laser communication technology that encodes data in photons (rather than radio waves) to communicate between a probe in deep space and Earth. Using light instead of radio allows the spacecraft to communicate more data in a given amount of time. The DSOC team is based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE), heads the Psyche Mission scientific team. Other SESE scientists include Jim Bell (deputy principal investigator and co-investigator) and David Williams (co-investigator). And others….
Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), General Dynamics, Glenn Research Center (GRC), Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur (OCA), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS), Planetary Science Institute (PSI), Smithsonian Institution, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Space Systems Loral (SSL), Tesat Spacecom, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Arizona, Yale University.
NEW DISCOVERY MISSION
LUCY: First to visit six trojans Asteroids
Lucy takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor, called "Lucy" by her discoverers, whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity's evolution.
Lucy will perform flybys of six Trojans that span the diversity of the Trojan population. It will be launched in 2021 and will have encounters from 2025-2033. These asteroids are trapped by Jupiter’s gravity in two swarms that share the planet’s orbit, one leading and one trailing Jupiter in its 12-year circuit around the sun. The Trojans are thought to be relics of a much earlier era in the history of the solar system and may have formed far beyond Jupiter’s current orbit.
Lucy will provide crucial input to four of the ten Priority Questions for Planetary Science as expressed by the 2013 Planetary Science Decadal Survey:
1-What were the initial stages, conditions and processes of solar system formation?
2-How did the giant planets accrete, and is there evidence that they migrated to new orbital positions?
3-What governed the accretion, supply of water, chemistry, and internal differentiation of the inner planets and the evolution of their atmospheres, and what roles did bombardment by large projectiles play?
4-What were the primordial sources of organic matter?
In this artist's concept (right), the Lucy spacecraft is flying by Eurybates, one of the six diverse and scientifically important Trojans to be studied. Credit: Southwest Research Institute
Lucy's primary science objectives are...
To complete its primary mission. Lucy will Map the color, composition and regolith properties of the surface and determine the distribution of minerals, ices and organics species
Map albedo, shape, crater spatial and size distributions, determine the nature of crustal structure and layering, and determine the relative ages of surface units
Determine the masses and densities, and study subsurface composition via crater windows, fractures, ejecta blankets, and exposed bedding
Determine the number, size-frequency distribution and location of km-scale satellites and dense rings
Jupiter's swarms of Trojan asteroids may be remnants of the material that formed our outer planets more than 4 billion years ago—so these fossils may help reveal our most distant origins.
Travel itinerary. One of two missions selected in a highly-competitive process, Lucy will launch in October 2021. With boosts from Earth's gravity, it will complete a 12-year journey to seven different asteroids: a Main Belt asteroid and six Trojans.
No other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around the Sun. Lucy will show us, for the first time, the diversity of the primordial bodies that built the planets.
What lies beneath. Lucy's complex path will take it to both clusters of Trojans and give us our first close-up view of all three major types of bodies in the swarms (so-called C-, P- and D-types). The dark-red P- and D-type Trojans resemble those found in the Kuiper Belt of icy bodies that extends beyond the orbit of Neptune. The C-types are found mostly in the outer parts of the Main Belt of asteroids, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. All of the Trojans are thought to be abundant in dark carbon compounds. Below an insulating blanket of dust, they are probably rich in water and other volatile substances.
This diagram illustrates Lucy's orbital path. The spacecraft's path (green) is shown in a slowly turning frame of reference that makes Jupiter appear stationary, giving the trajectory its pretzel-like shape.
Moving targets. This time-lapsed animation shows the movements of the inner planets (Mercury, brown; Venus, white; Earth, blue; Mars, red), Jupiter (orange), and the two Trojan swarms (green) during the course of the Lucy mission.
Long to-do list. Lucy and its impressive suite of remote-sensing instruments will study the geology, surface composition, and physical properties of the Trojans at close range. The payload includes three imaging and mapping instruments, including a color imaging and infrared mapping spectrometer and a thermal infrared spectrometer. Lucy also will perform radio science investigations using its telecommunications system to determine the masses and densities of the Trojan targets.
BepiColombo Mission to MERCURY
BepiColombo is a European Space Agency (ESA) Cornerstone mission to Mercury. Due to budgetary constraints the lander portion, the Mercury Surface Element (MSE) of the mission has been cancelled. The mission involves two components: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The two components will be launched together on an Arianne 5 in October 2018. The spacecraft will have a nearly 7 year interplanetary cruise to Mercury using solar-electric propulsion and gravity assists, flying past Venus twice and Mercury four times. On arrival in late 2024, the spacecraft will be captured into polar orbit, which will be lowered using chemical thrusters. The MPO and MMO will then separate into their own orbits, 400 x 1500 km, 2.3 hr period for MPO, 400 x 12000 km, 9.2 hr for MMO. The nominal mission will last one earth-year with a possible one year extension.
MSE is a small (44 kg) lander designed to operate for about one week on the surface of Mercury. The MSE is a 0.9 m diameter disc which is designed to land at a latitude of 85 degrees near the terminator region.
The MSE will carry a 7 kg payload consisting of an imaging system (a descent camera and a surface camera), a heat flow and physical properties package, an alpha X-ray spectrometer, a magnetometer, a seismometer, a soil penetrating device (mole), and a micro-rover.
The mission will consist of two separate spacecraft that will orbit the planet. ESA is building the 520 kg Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), and the Japanese space agency ISAS/JAXA, the 250 kg Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).
The two components will be launched together on an Arianne 5 in October 2018.