Session

Technical Session 4: Space Access

Location

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Abstract

There is growing interest in using small spacecraft for science and exploration beyond low Earth orbit, but these missions have been constrained to fly as secondary payloads on rideshare missions that launch infrequently and on less-than-ideal trajectories.

Regular, dedicated, low-cost science missions to planetary destinations can be enabled by Rocket Lab’s high-ΔV small spacecraft, the high-energy Photon, supporting expanding opportunities for scientists and increasing the rate of science return. High-energy Photon can launch on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle to precisely target escape asymptotes for planetary small spacecraft missions with payload masses up to ~40 kg without the need for a medium or heavy lift launch vehicle. High-energy Photon can also fly as a secondary payload on an EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) Grande port or on other launch vehicles, like Neutron. This paper describes planetary small spacecraft currently in development that leverage Rocket Lab’s deep space capabilities, including missions to the Moon, Venus, and Mars.

The high-energy Photon will be demonstrated on the NASA Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission, launching in 2021. CAPSTONE is expected to be the first spacecraft to operate in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon, with high-energy Photon delivering NASA’s 12U technology demonstration CubeSat on a Ballistic Lunar Transfer using a phasing orbit approach. The CAPSTONE high-energy Photon will launch on Electron. While NASA performs the primary mission, Rocket Lab plans to execute a secondary mission to demonstrate the high-energy Photon deep space operations capabilities with a lunar flyby.

Rocket Lab has also made the engineering and financial commitment to fly a private mission to Venus in 2023 to help answer the question, “Are we alone in the universe?” The mission will deploy a small probe into the atmosphere in search of biomarkers. The mission is planned for launch in May 2023 on Electron from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1. The mission will follow a hyperbolic trajectory with the high-energy Photon performing as the cruise stage and then as a communications relay after deploying a small probe for the science phase of the mission.

In early 2021, Rocket Lab was awarded a contract for the preliminary design of two Photon spacecraft for the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission. ESCAPADE is a twin-spacecraft science mission that will orbit a pair of spacecraft around Mars to understand the structure, composition, variability, and dynamics of Mars' unique hybrid magnetosphere. After launch as secondary payloads on a commercial launch vehicle provided by NASA, the two spacecraft will each execute a series of burns with the Hyper Curie engine to prepare for and execute the Trans-Mars Injection (TMI), perform an 11-month interplanetary cruise with several trajectory correction maneuvers (TCMs), and then perform the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) burns to insert into elliptical orbits around Mars. ESCAPADE is undergoing a NASA preliminary design review and a confirmation review in the summer of 2021 to evaluate whether the mission proceeds to implementation and flight.

Available for download on Saturday, August 07, 2021

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Aug 11th, 9:00 AM

Bringing Deep Space Missions Within Reach for Small Spacecraft

Utah State University, Logan, UT

There is growing interest in using small spacecraft for science and exploration beyond low Earth orbit, but these missions have been constrained to fly as secondary payloads on rideshare missions that launch infrequently and on less-than-ideal trajectories.

Regular, dedicated, low-cost science missions to planetary destinations can be enabled by Rocket Lab’s high-ΔV small spacecraft, the high-energy Photon, supporting expanding opportunities for scientists and increasing the rate of science return. High-energy Photon can launch on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle to precisely target escape asymptotes for planetary small spacecraft missions with payload masses up to ~40 kg without the need for a medium or heavy lift launch vehicle. High-energy Photon can also fly as a secondary payload on an EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) Grande port or on other launch vehicles, like Neutron. This paper describes planetary small spacecraft currently in development that leverage Rocket Lab’s deep space capabilities, including missions to the Moon, Venus, and Mars.

The high-energy Photon will be demonstrated on the NASA Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission, launching in 2021. CAPSTONE is expected to be the first spacecraft to operate in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon, with high-energy Photon delivering NASA’s 12U technology demonstration CubeSat on a Ballistic Lunar Transfer using a phasing orbit approach. The CAPSTONE high-energy Photon will launch on Electron. While NASA performs the primary mission, Rocket Lab plans to execute a secondary mission to demonstrate the high-energy Photon deep space operations capabilities with a lunar flyby.

Rocket Lab has also made the engineering and financial commitment to fly a private mission to Venus in 2023 to help answer the question, “Are we alone in the universe?” The mission will deploy a small probe into the atmosphere in search of biomarkers. The mission is planned for launch in May 2023 on Electron from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1. The mission will follow a hyperbolic trajectory with the high-energy Photon performing as the cruise stage and then as a communications relay after deploying a small probe for the science phase of the mission.

In early 2021, Rocket Lab was awarded a contract for the preliminary design of two Photon spacecraft for the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission. ESCAPADE is a twin-spacecraft science mission that will orbit a pair of spacecraft around Mars to understand the structure, composition, variability, and dynamics of Mars' unique hybrid magnetosphere. After launch as secondary payloads on a commercial launch vehicle provided by NASA, the two spacecraft will each execute a series of burns with the Hyper Curie engine to prepare for and execute the Trans-Mars Injection (TMI), perform an 11-month interplanetary cruise with several trajectory correction maneuvers (TCMs), and then perform the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) burns to insert into elliptical orbits around Mars. ESCAPADE is undergoing a NASA preliminary design review and a confirmation review in the summer of 2021 to evaluate whether the mission proceeds to implementation and flight.