We present a study of an impacting descent probe that increases the science return of spacecraft orbiting or passing an atmosphere-less planetary bodies of the solar system, such as the Galilean moons of Jupiter. The descent probe is a carry-on small spacecraft (<100 kg), to be deployed by the mother spacecraft, that brings itself onto a collisional trajectory with the targeted planetary body in a simple manner. A possible science payload includes instruments for surface imaging, characterisation of the neutral exosphere, and magnetic field and plasma measurement near the target body down to very low-altitudes (~1 km), during the probe’s fast (~km/s) descent to the surface until impact. The science goals and the concept of operation are discussed with particular reference to Europa, including options for flying through water plumes and after-impact retrieval of very-low altitude science data. All in all, it is demonstrated how the descent probe has the potential to provide a high science return to a mission at a low extra level of complexity, engineering effort, and risk. This study builds upon earlier studies for a Callisto Descent Probe for the former Europa-Jupiter System Mission of ESA and NASA, and extends them with a detailed assessment of a descent probe designed to be an additional science payload for the NASA Europa Mission.
"Earth, Moon and Planets" – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 1, 2017
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