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Fast E-sail Uranus entry probe mission

Abstract : The electric solar wind sail is a novel propellantless space propulsion concept. According to numerical estimates, the electric solar wind sail can produce a large total impulse per propulsion system mass. Here we consider using a 0.5 N electric solar wind sail for boosting a 550 kg spacecraft to Uranus in less than 6 years. The spacecraft is a stack consisting of the electric solar wind sail module which is jettisoned roughly at Saturn distance, a carrier module and a probe for Uranus atmospheric entry. The carrier module has a chemical propulsion ability for orbital corrections and it uses its antenna for picking up the probe's data transmission and later relaying it to Earth. The scientific output of the mission is similar to what the Galileo Probe did at Jupiter. Measurements of the chemical and isotope composition of the Uranian atmosphere can give key constraints to different formation theories of the Solar System. A similar method could also be applied to other giant planets and Titan by using a fleet of more or less identical probes.
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Pekka Janhunen, Jean-Pierre Lebreton, Sini Merikallio, Mark Paton, Giovanni Mengali, et al.. Fast E-sail Uranus entry probe mission. Planetary and Space Science, 2014, 104, Part A, pp.141-146. ⟨10.1016/j.pss.2014.08.004⟩. ⟨insu-02885839⟩



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