Robotic Planetary Mission Benefits from Nuclear Electric Propulsion

Paper #:
  • 929071

Published:
  • 1992-08-03
Citation:
Kelley, J. and Yen, C., "Robotic Planetary Mission Benefits from Nuclear Electric Propulsion," SAE Technical Paper 929071, 1992, https://doi.org/10.4271/929071.
Pages:
11
Abstract:
Several interesting planetary missions are either enabled or significantly enhanced by nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) in the 50 to 100 kW power range. These missions include a Pluto Orbiter/Probe with an 11-year flight time and several years of operational life in orbit versus a ballistic very fast (13 km/s) flyby which would take longer to get to Pluto and would have a very short time to observe the planet. (A ballistic orbiter would take about 40 years to get to Pluto.) Other missions include a Neptune Orbiter/Probe, a Jupiter Grand Tour orbiting each of the major moons in order, a Uranus Orbiter/Probe, a Multiple Mainbelt Asteroid Rendezvous orbiting six selected asteroids, and a Comet Nucleus Sample Return. This paper discusses potential missions and compares the nuclear electric propulsion option to the conventional ballistic approach on a parametric basis.
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