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Smallsat missions to main belt asteroids - possible?
antipode
post Jul 18 2020, 11:48 PM
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Many of the large main belt asteroids (2 Pallas, 10 Hygeia, 704 Interamnia, 52 Europa, 611 Davida to name just a few of the biggest ones) remain unexplored by spacecraft.
Some of these are suspected as being protoplanets. Their orbits are highly varied. Their surfaces vary. Some have moons. They are interesting targets in their own right.
But how to do it, and affordably? Its wonderful that we have upcoming missions to 16 Psyche and the Jupitoer Trojans but even these Discovery class missions are expensive and highly contested.

My question to this knowledgeable audience is threefold.

1) Does anyone know of any existing mission proposals to other main belt asteroids?
2) Do advances in smallsat launchers (ie Electron) and rideshares allow low cost opportunities for cubesats (6U/12U) in this missions space?
3) Would orbiters be possible within these mass limits, and if so what sort of instrument suites would be desirable and possible?

Phil

ps moderators, if this is in the wrong space feel free to move
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vjkane
post Jul 19 2020, 01:13 PM
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QUOTE (antipode @ Jul 18 2020, 03:48 PM) *
Many of the large main belt asteroids (2 Pallas, 10 Hygeia, 704 Interamnia, 52 Europa, 611 Davida to name just a few of the biggest ones) remain unexplored by spacecraft.
Some of these are suspected as being protoplanets. Their orbits are highly varied. Their surfaces vary. Some have moons. They are interesting targets in their own right.
But how to do it, and affordably? Its wonderful that we have upcoming missions to 16 Psyche and the Jupitoer Trojans but even these Discovery class missions are expensive and highly contested.

My question to this knowledgeable audience is threefold.

1) Does anyone know of any existing mission proposals to other main belt asteroids?
2) Do advances in smallsat launchers (ie Electron) and rideshares allow low cost opportunities for cubesats (6U/12U) in this missions space?
3) Would orbiters be possible within these mass limits, and if so what sort of instrument suites would be desirable and possible?

Phil

ps moderators, if this is in the wrong space feel free to move

You might want to check out these two links:

Athena Pallas - A simple Pallas flyby mission. This proposal was rated by NASA as Category 1 (fully selectable based on science, technical, and budgetary category) but passed over in favor of the Janus near Earth asteroid mission. You might want to note the simple instrumentation of both missions - just not much room or mass allowance available.

Mars ESCAPADE - This is a dual Mars orbiter funded by NASA's Heliophysics Division, but it is an example of a smallsat mission that would use electric propulsion.


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mcaplinger
post Jul 19 2020, 06:32 PM
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QUOTE (vjkane @ Jul 19 2020, 05:13 AM) *
You might want to note the simple instrumentation of both missions...

As one of the developers for the Janus payload, I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from THE PRESTIGE: "Simple, maybe, but not easy." rolleyes.gif


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Disclaimer: This post is based on public information only. Any opinions are my own.
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vjkane
post Jul 19 2020, 10:56 PM
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QUOTE (mcaplinger @ Jul 19 2020, 11:32 AM) *
As one of the developers for the Janus payload, I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from THE PRESTIGE: "Simple, maybe, but not easy." rolleyes.gif

Absolutely not easy! Small is always hard.


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antipode
post Jul 20 2020, 02:04 AM
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Thanks for those links VJKane

Phil
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mcaplinger
post Jul 20 2020, 04:46 PM
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QUOTE (vjkane @ Jul 19 2020, 02:56 PM) *
Small is always hard.

For the payload, small is not the issue, we've been doing small science instruments for decades. But I can't discuss the mission further beyond what can be gleaned from https://www.lpi.usra.edu/sbag/meetings/jun2...ns/Hartzell.pdf and other public sources.


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