Author Topic: NASA Selects Two Missions to Explore the Early Solar System  (Read 7650 times)

Online Chris Bergin

January 04, 2017
RELEASE 17-003
NASA Selects Two Missions to Explore the Early Solar System

NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

“Lucy will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids, while Psyche will study a unique metal asteroid that’s never been visited before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is what Discovery Program missions are all about – boldly going to places we’ve never been to enable groundbreaking science.”

Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, is scheduled to launch in October 2021. It’s slated to arrive at its first destination, a main belt asteroid, in 2025. From 2027 to 2033, Lucy will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids. 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.

“This is a unique opportunity,” said Harold F. Levison, principal investigator of the Lucy mission from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins.”

Lucy will build on the success of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, using newer versions of the RALPH and LORRI science instruments that helped enable the mission’s achievements. Several members of the Lucy mission team also are veterans of the New Horizons mission. Lucy also will build on the success of the OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid Bennu, with the OTES instrument and several members of the OSIRIS-REx team.

The Psyche mission will explore one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt – a giant metal asteroid, known as 16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth. This asteroid measures about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in diameter and, unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, is thought to be comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth’s core. Scientists wonder whether Psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet that could have been as large as Mars, but which lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago.

The mission will help scientists understand how planets and other bodies separated into their layers – including cores, mantles and crusts – early in their histories.

“This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world – not one of rock or ice, but of metal,” said Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. “16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core. We learn about inner space by visiting outer space.”

Psyche, also a robotic mission, is targeted to launch in October of 2023, arriving at the asteroid in 2030, following an Earth gravity assist spacecraft maneuver in 2024 and a Mars flyby in 2025.

In addition to selecting the Lucy and Psyche missions for formulation, the agency will extend funding for the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) project for an additional year. The NEOCam space telescope is designed to survey regions of space closest to Earth’s orbit, where potentially hazardous asteroids may be found.

“These are true missions of discovery that integrate into NASA’s larger strategy of investigating how the solar system formed and evolved,” said NASA’s Planetary Science Director Jim Green. “We’ve explored terrestrial planets, gas giants, and a range of other bodies orbiting the sun. Lucy will observe primitive remnants from farther out in the solar system, while Psyche will directly observe the interior of a planetary body. These additional pieces of the puzzle will help us understand how the sun and its family of planets formed, changed over time, and became places where life could develop and be sustained – and what the future may hold.”

Discovery Program class missions like these are relatively low-cost, their development capped at about $450 million. They are managed for NASA’s Planetary Science Division by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The missions are designed and led by a principal investigator, who assembles a team of scientists and engineers, to address key science questions about the solar system.

The Discovery Program portfolio includes 12 prior selections such as the MESSENGER mission to study Mercury, the Dawn mission to explore asteroids Vesta and Ceres, and the InSight Mars lander, scheduled to launch in May 2018.

NASA’s other missions to asteroids began with the NEAR orbiter of asteroid Eros, which arrived in 2000, and continues with Dawn, which orbited Vesta and now is in an extended mission phase at Ceres. The OSIRIS-REx mission, which launched on Sept. 8, 2016, is speeding toward a 2018 rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu, and will deliver a sample back to Earth in 2023. Each mission focuses on a different aspect of asteroid science to give scientists the broader picture of solar system formation and evolution.

Read more about NASA’s Discovery Program and missions at:

https://discovery.nasa.gov/missions.cfml

-end

Online soltasto

We now have a video with some cool CGI:

I wonder which launchers will be selected to launch them!
« Last Edit: 01/04/2017 06:16 PM by soltasto »

Offline Jim

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I wonder which launchers will be selected to launch them!

Those won't be selected until 2018 and 2020 or so

Offline Sam Ho

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I posted the ASU and SwRI releases over in the other thread:

SwRI to lead NASA’s Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojans
Small, primitive worlds orbiting near Jupiter to provide clues about origins of the solar system

Boulder, Colo. — January 4, 2017 — NASA has selected Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) to lead Lucy, a landmark Discovery mission to perform the first reconnaissance of the Trojans, a population of primitive asteroids orbiting in tandem with Jupiter. The Lucy spacecraft will launch in 2021 to study six of these exciting worlds.

http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2017/nasa-lucy-mission-jupiter-trojan.htm

ASU to lead NASA space exploration mission for 1st time

By Karin Valentine — January 4, 2017

Arizona State University’s Psyche Mission, a journey to a metal asteroid, has been selected for flight under NASA’s Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions that are exploring the solar system.

https://sese.asu.edu/about/news/article/2196

Offline yg1968

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See below:

I recorded the last half hour of the briefing (i.e., I missed about 15 minutes):



Offline yg1968

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In addition to selecting the Lucy and Psyche missions for formulation, the agency will extend funding for the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) project for an additional year. The NEOCam space telescope is designed to survey regions of space closest to Earth’s orbit, where potentially hazardous asteroids may be found.

So NEOCam isn't completely dead. Jim Green was asked very specific questions during the briefing about what this meant for NEOCam's future but he didn't say much more about it than that.

Online Chris Bergin

LM presser:

Lockheed Martin to Build NASA’s Lucy Spacecraft, a Mission to Trojan Asteroids

 

NASA’s Newest Discovery Mission to Study Asteroids Orbiting with Jupiter

 

NASA’s Lucy mission will launch in 2021 for the first reconnaissance of six Jupiter Trojan asteroids.
Artwork courtesy of Southwest Research Institute.

 

Denver, Jan. 5, 2017 – Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) has been selected to design, build and operate the spacecraft for NASA’s Lucy mission. One of NASA’s two new Discovery Program missions, Lucy will perform the first reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids orbiting the sun in tandem with the gas giant. The Lucy spacecraft will launch in 2021 to study six of these exciting worlds.

 

The mission is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland will manage the mission. The program has a development cost cap of about $450 million.

 

“This is a thrilling mission as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids have never been studied up close,” said Guy Beutelschies, director of Interplanetary Systems at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “The design of the spacecraft draws from the flight-proven OSIRIS-REx spacecraft currently on its way to a near-Earth asteroid. This heritage of spacecraft and mission operations brings known performance, reliability and cost to the mission.”

 

Lucy will study the geology, surface composition and bulk physical properties of these bodies at close range. It’s slated to arrive at its first destination, a main belt asteroid, in 2025. From 2027 to 2033, Lucy will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids. 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.

 

“This is a unique opportunity,” said Dr. Levison. “Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins.”

 

Lucy is the seventh NASA Discovery Program mission in which Lockheed Martin has participated. Previously, the company developed the Lunar Prospector spacecraft; developed the aeroshell entry system for Mars Pathfinder; developed and operated the spacecraft for both Stardust missions; developed and operated the Genesis spacecraft; developed and operated the two GRAIL spacecraft; and developed and will operate the InSight Mars lander set to launch in May 2018.

 

NASA’s Discovery program class missions are relatively low-cost, their development capped at a specific cost. They are managed for NASA’s Planetary Science Division by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The missions are designed and led by a principal investigator, who assembles a team of scientists and engineers, to address key science questions about the solar system.

 

About Lockheed Martin

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 98,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

Offline stwest

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SSL press release:

SSL TO PROVIDE SPACECRAFT FOR NASA ASTEROID EXPLORATION MISSION

Palo Alto, Calif. – January 6, 2017 —Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, today announced that it will provide a spacecraft platform for a NASA Discovery Mission to explore the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. SSL will work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to support Principal Investigator Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration, in a mission to research the 210 km diameter asteroid, which is believed to be the only place in the solar system where a metal planetary core can be studied. As the industrial partner, SSL will provide the “power-propulsion chassis,” a highly capable composite structure spacecraft platform equipped with a high-power solar electric propulsion (SEP) system.

The NASA Discovery Program goal is to deepen the knowledge of our solar system by launching modest cost-capped missions on a routine cadence. Scheduled to launch in the 2020s, the Psyche mission was selected for flight out of five Discovery Mission candidates.

“Our many years of experience and success in building state of the art spacecraft, position us well to support NASA programs and to contribute to this NASA Discovery Mission,” said John Celli, president of SSL. “SSL is honored to partner with ASU and JPL to enable this ground breaking research, which will help us better understand the early days of the solar system and formation of terrestrial planets.”

The spacecraft design is based on the SSL 1300 platform, which has been proven on more than 100 missions, and has the flexibility to serve a broad range of applications, ranging from space exploration and remote sensing, to commercial communications. SSL is also contributing to a variety of other next generation U.S. government missions, including the Restore-L mission for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which will demonstrate the ability to extend the life of a satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and the Dragonfly program for NASA and DARPA, which will demonstrate on orbit satellite assembly.

About SSL
Space Systems Loral (SSL) is a leading provider of commercial satellites with broad expertise to support satellite operators and innovative space related missions. The company designs and manufactures spacecraft for services such as direct-to-home television, video content distribution, broadband internet, mobile communications, and Earth observation. As a Silicon Valley innovator for more than 50 years, SSL’s advanced product line also includes state-of-the-art small satellites, and sophisticated robotics and automation solutions for remote operations.  For more information, visit www.sslmda.com.

Online gongora

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NASA Moves Up Launch of Psyche Mission to a Metal Asteroid
Quote
Psyche, NASA's Discovery Mission to a unique metal asteroid, has been moved up one year with launch in the summer of 2022, and with a planned arrival at the main belt asteroid in 2026 -- four years earlier than the original timeline.

"We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost."

The Discovery program announcement of opportunity had directed teams to propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023. The Lucy mission was selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow in 2023. Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities.

"The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective," said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. "We are all extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner."

The revised trajectory is more efficient, as it eliminates the need for an Earth gravity assist, which ultimately shortens the cruise time. In addition, the new trajectory stays farther from the sun, reducing the amount of heat protection needed for the spacecraft. The trajectory will still include a Mars gravity assist in 2023.

"The change in plans is a great boost for the team and the mission," said Psyche Project Manager Henry Stone at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Our mission design team did a fantastic job coming up with this ideal launch opportunity."

The Psyche spacecraft is being built by Space Systems Loral (SSL), Palo Alto, California. In order to support the new mission trajectory, SSL redesigned the solar array system from a four-panel array in a straight row on either side of the spacecraft to a more powerful five-panel x-shaped design, commonly used for missions requiring more capability. Much like a sports car, by combining a relatively small spacecraft body with a very high-power solar array design, the Psyche spacecraft will speed to its destination at a faster pace than is typical for a larger spacecraft.

"By increasing the size of the solar arrays, the spacecraft will have the power it needs to support the higher velocity requirements of the updated mission," said SSL Psyche Program Manager Steve Scott.

Offline Star One

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Would not surprise me if this doesn't end up on a Falcon 9 as it seems an ideal mission for Space X to bid for.

Offline Sesquipedalian

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No information on the new trajectory has been published yet.  If someone is on Twitter, please ping NASAPsyche to see if they're going to release it.

Offline redliox

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The mention of no Earth flybys and one of Mars definitely reminds me of Dawn's path.  It'll be interesting to see how the solar arrays and ion drives compare between Dawn and Psyche.  Hopefully the reaction wheels aboard Psyche will be more robust then either Dawn's or Kepler's.

...as you can guess I hope to see improvements on Psyche.  :)
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Offline as58

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I noticed that the recently released NASA budget also says launch in summer 2022 (page PS-25). It also says that arrival at Psyche will be in winter 2025, which surely can't be right.

Offline Jim

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Would not surprise me if this doesn't end up on a Falcon 9 as it seems an ideal mission for Space X to bid for.

No more than an Atlas V

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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It occurs to me that the spacecraft being sent to 13 Psyche would probably need to be seriously hardened. A mass of ferrous metals of that size would probably have a huge induced magnetic field and electrostatic charge from its motion through the field lines of the Sun's magnetosphere. There could even be a synchrotron radiation field close to the surface!
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Offline Star One

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Would not surprise me if this doesn't end up on a Falcon 9 as it seems an ideal mission for Space X to bid for.

No more than an Atlas V

Other than the fact that the Falcon would be cheaper I expect.

Offline Star One

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Earlier launch of NASA’s Psyche mission touted as cost-saving measure

Quote
“We are able to save about $100 million over the life cycle of the mission by launching in 2022 instead of 2023,” Elkins-Tanton wrote in an email to Spaceflight Now. “The majority of the savings comes from the shorter cruise enabled by the earlier launch date. We will arrive at Psyche in 2026 rather than 2030 because this is so much more efficient.”

Engineers at Space Systems/Loral, the manufacturer of the Psyche spacecraft, will add larger solar arrays to the probe to generate more electricity. The upsized solar panels are needed to power the craft’s electric ion thrusters to reach Psyche sooner.

Instead of a four-panel array on each side of the spacecraft, Psyche will have a more powerful five-panel X-shaped wing design, according to NASA.

“The cost savings are significant from a one year reduction in the development time and about a three-year reduction in cruise operations,” Stone wrote in an email. “The larger solar panels add mass, but total mass is still within the launch vehicle’s capabilities.”

NASA has not selected a launcher for Psyche, but United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster will compete for the mission’s launch contract.

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/05/26/earlier-launch-of-nasas-psyche-mission-touted-as-cost-saving-measure/

Offline Nilof

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Lucy's orbit is quite interesting, it will visit both the SJL4 and SJL5 Trojan clouds.
« Last Edit: 05/26/2017 04:32 PM by Nilof »
For a variable Isp spacecraft running at constant power and constant acceleration, the mass ratio is linear in delta-v.   Δv = ve0(MR-1). Or equivalently: Δv = vef PMF. Also, this is energy-optimal for a fixed delta-v and mass ratio.

Offline clongton

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Would not surprise me if this doesn't end up on a Falcon 9 as it seems an ideal mission for Space X to bid for.

No more than an Atlas V

Both are capable. Falcon costs less but Atlas has more reliability history. I expect at least 1 of this pair to fly on the Atlas, if not both. The history of reliability is not easily discounted and plays well against cost, especially for one-of-a kind missions like these.
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Offline Star One

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Would not surprise me if this doesn't end up on a Falcon 9 as it seems an ideal mission for Space X to bid for.

No more than an Atlas V

Both are capable. Falcon costs less but Atlas has more reliability history. I expect at least 1 of this pair to fly on the Atlas, if not both. The history of reliability is not easily discounted and plays well against cost, especially for one-of-a kind missions like these.

At some point they have to trust other launchers with Atlas V going away. Best to start now than leave it until later.

Tags: asteroids Psyche Lucy