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28 October 1996 Kuiper Express: a sciencecraft
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Abstract
The Kuiper Express is a mission to achieve the first reconnaissance of one of the primitive objects that reside in the Kuiper Belt. The objects in the Kuiper Belt are the remnants of the planetesimal swarm that formed the four giant planets of the outer Solar System. These objects, because they are far from the Sun, have not been processed by solar heating and are essentially in their primordial state. This makes them unique objects and their study will provide information on the composition of the solar nebula that cannot be extracted from a study of other objects in the Solar System. The Kuiper Express is a sciencecraft mission. A sciencecraft is an integrated unit that combines into a single system the essential elements (but no more) necessary to achieve the science objectives of the mission, including science instruments, electronics, telecommunications, power, and propulsion. The design of a sciencecraft begins with the definition of mission science objectives and cost constraint. An observational sequence and sensor subsystem are then designed. This sensor subsystem in turn becomes the design driver for the sciencecraft architecture and hardware subsystems needed to deliver the sensor to its target and return the science data to the earth. Throughout the design process, shared functionality, shared redundancy, and reduced cost are strongly emphasized. The Kuiper Express will be launched using a Delta vehicle and will use solar electric propulsion to add velocity and shape its trajectory in the inner Solar System, executing two earth gravity-assist flybys. It will also execute flybys of main belt asteroids, Mars, Uranus, and Neptune/Triton en route to its target in the Kuiper belt, where it will arrive about ten years after launch. It will use no nuclear power. The surface constituents and morphology of the objects visited will be measured and their atmospheres will be characterized. The cost of the detailed design, fabrication, and launch of the Kuiper Express is consistent with the $150M limit set by the NASA Discovery Program.
© (1996) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
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