36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 14 Future Missions
Poster I, Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 4:00-7:00pm, Exhibition Hall 1A

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[14.12] Outstanding Science in the Neptune System From an Aerocaptured Vision Mission

T. R. Spilker (JPL/Caltech), A. P. Ingersoll (Caltech)

In 2003 the authors successfully proposed to NASA's ``Vision Missions Studies" NRA (NRA-03-OSS-01-VM) to study an implementation option for the ``Neptune Orbiter with Probes" mission that does Cassini-level science without fission-based electric power or propulsion. Our Study Team includes a Science Team composed of experienced planetary scientists, many of whom helped draft the Neptune discussions in the Solar System Exploration Decadal Survey, and an Implementation Team with experienced engineers and technologists from multiple NASA Centers and JPL. The key characteristics of our mission concept are a mix of Solar Electric Propulsion and gravity assists to reach Neptune in 12 years or less, aerocapture into an eccentric Neptune orbit for a Triton-driven orbital tour, and a well designed set of science objectives guiding a very capable science payload that includes multiple Neptune entry probes. We leveraged the significant pathfinding work done in 2002-03 by NASA's Aerocapture Systems Analysis Team to focus quickly on principal issues. By the end of May 2004 the Science Team had drafted a thorough and coherent set of science objectives, leading to our first series of design sessions with JPL's ``Team X" in early June. The initial design options studied in those sessions produced flight system designs that all fit easily on soon-to-be-operational launch vehicles. Since then, students working in Caltech's Laboratory for Space Mission Design have studied the potential benefits of incorporating new technologies into those initial designs. Later this year another series of Team X sessions will incorporate the most beneficial technologies into the best design options. The poster will discuss the mission's science objectives, and summarize study results to date.

This work was done at multiple NASA Centers and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract to NASA's Office of Space Science.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.