Wednesday, June 15, 2005

OPAG Meeting has an article on last week's OPAG meeting in Boulder, Colorado. OPAG is a group set up by NASA to provide input on future outer planetary exploration. Among the mission concepts highlighted at the meeting was the Europa orbiter and a Titan blimp. Such missions may provide critical information on the geology and internal structure of both satellites. Unfortunately, I was not there in person (I could have been though thanks to the Io meeting shortly before it), but this gives a decent summary. Also discussed, from those who attended, was providing the capabilities on the Europa Orbiter to perform Io observations, but this would require a camera, which isn't guaranteed to be on the payload of EO.


Blogger Bruce Moomaw said...

You need not worry about that, Jason -- EVERY science definiton team that's studied the possible payload of EO over the last 6 years has said that a camera is mandatory. At an absolute minimum it would be a small 2-color one with medium resolution, and it's likely to be a lot more than that -- there may be both a medium-res and a very high-res one. (It's even possible that an IR thermal mapper will be added to look for relatively recent water-eruption sites.)

Moreover, over the last three years, the additional goal of trying to determine Europa's surface composition from orbit has been firmly added to the list of EO science requirements -- which almost certainly means a near-IR mapping spectrometer, and maybe also a mass spectrometer to analyze atoms sputtered off the surface by Jupiter's radiation.

Meanwhile, the final report from that OPAG meeting is already on line ( ), and it includes some very interesting stuff. An EO mission -- very likely with the ESA's help -- now looks virtually certain for a start in 2007 and a launch around 2014 (as the new Solar System Roadmap recommends); and NASA will make a serious attempt to keep the Mars Surface Laboratory on track for a launch in 2009. On the negative side, NASA's continuing budget troubles make it likely that the next New Frontiers mission will be initiated and launched 5 years after Juno, instead of the hoped-for 3 years -- unless more funding for the program appears.

The entire OPAG website also includes several lists of papers and reports valuable to anyone interested in the outer System -- notably:

...and the materials presented at the just-completed meeting should be added shortly.

6/16/2005 12:38:00 AM  
Blogger Bruce Moomaw said...

NASA's Solar System head Andy Dantzler added that he will be considering the possibility of adding a small lander or an impactor probe to the Europa Orbiter if it can be fitted in -- but that is a very big "if". This mission will be pushing the envelope in both mass and cost from the very start.

6/16/2005 01:08:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Okay. I had heard that there were payload mass concerns for the Europa Orbiter and that it was possible that a camera (or at least one sufficient to at least do Io science since no Io flybys would be attempted) may not be included in the payload.

6/16/2005 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Moomaw said...

There are indeed serious payload mass concerns -- but a medium-res camera was considered (along with a radar sounder and laser altimeter) to be -- from the very first EO payload study done in 1999 -- one of the instruments absolutely indispensable to the mission, without which it would not be worth flying. (Besides which, this camera was by far the lightest instrument recommended, although it had by far the biggest data-transmission requirements -- the core instrument that presents a big mass problem is the radar sounder.)

Since those studies, both the Space Studies Board's 2001 Europa exploration report for NASA, and the Decadal Survey, and the Solar System Roadmap, have insisted that a surface-composition mapper is also a mandatory addition to the EO payload. I imagine we'll also see a magnetometer -- but beyond that, I hesitate to list anything as getting a certain ticket on EO. However, this is an important mission of a type that can only be flown very infrequently -- I imagine they'll make very considerable efforts to maximize its payload mass, even at the cost of a bigger booster. (This will be made easier by the fact that NASA has now dropped its original harebrained plan to launch EO DIRECTLY to Jupiter -- they'll be using an inner-planets gravity assist for the purpose, which by itself vastly improves the mass situation.)

6/16/2005 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Well, I heard from another source that the payload mass situation on EO is better than the original iteration (pre-JIMO), probably on the order of 150 kg (w/ margin).

6/16/2005 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Moomaw said...

Goodness gracious. That's a hell of a lot -- enough, if true, to include virtually everything on their wish list (except a lander or impactor).

6/16/2005 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce Moomaw said...

To repeat the comment I posted in the "New Horizons 2" thread above (which was the wrong place for it):

The presentations from the June OPAG meeting are now online:

Perhaps the most interesting are the two on the new design of the Europa
Orbiter. This work is now very advanced and detailed, and the science
payload has been greatly enlarged from the earlier design -- although it
still seems questionable that a small lander could be added. (They may also
be aiming for a launch as early as 2012.)

However, most of the others are also of note. Note in particular the piece
about work on two possible Titan mission designs -- one of which consists
not of an aerobot, but of a small surface rover with inflatable wheels,
which might be able to drive 500 km in 3 years. (The other, oddly enough,
is simply a Titan orbiter -- no aerobot mission design is presented here,
although it's very unlikely that the concept has been rejected.)

6/29/2005 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger infocat13 said...

November 2008 OPAG PDF's online
saturn mission with solar array's ?

11/10/2008 07:48:00 PM  

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