Status Report

Persephone: A Pluto-System Orbiter and Kuiper Belt Explorer

By SpaceRef Editor
February 17, 2021
Filed under , ,

Carly Howett, Stuart Robbins, Bryan J. Holler, Amanda Hendrix, Karl Fielhauer, Mark Perry, Fazle Siddique, Clint Apland, James Leary, S. Alan Stern, Heather Elliott, Francis Nimmo, Simon B. Porter, Silvia Protopapa, Kelsi N. Singer, Orenthal J. Tucker, Anne J. Verbiscer, Bruce Andrews, Stewart Bushman, Adam Crifasi, Doug Crowley, Clint Edwards, Carolyn M. Ernst, Blair Fonville, David Frankford, Dan Gallagher, Mark Holdridge, Jack Hunt, J. J. Kavelaars, Chris Krupiarz, Jimmy Kuhn, William McKinnon, Hari Nair, David Napolillo, Jon Pineau, Jani Radebaugh, Rachel Sholder, John Spencer, Adam Thodey, Samantha Walters, Bruce Williams, Robert J. Wilson, Leslie A. Young

Persephone is a NASA concept mission study that addresses key questions raised by New Horizons’ encounters with Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), with arguably the most important being “Does Pluto have a subsurface ocean?”. More broadly, Persephone would answer four significant science questions: (1) What are the internal structures of Pluto and Charon? (2) How have the surfaces and atmospheres in the Pluto system evolved? (3) How has the KBO population evolved? (4) What are the particles and magnetic field environments of the Kuiper Belt? To answer these questions, Persephone has a comprehensive payload, and would both orbit within the Pluto system and encounter other KBOs. The nominal mission is 30.7 years long, with launch in 2031 on a Space Launch System (SLS) Block 2 rocket with a Centaur kick stage, followed by a 27.6 year cruise powered by existing radioisotope electric propulsion (REP) and a Jupiter gravity assist to reach Pluto in 2058. En route to Pluto, Persephone would have one 50- to 100-km-class KBO encounter before starting a 3.1 Earth-year orbital campaign of the Pluto system. The mission also includes the potential for an 8-year extended mission, which would enable the exploration of another KBO in the 100- to 150-km-size class. The mission payload includes 11 instruments: Panchromatic and Color High-Resolution Imager; Low-Light Camera; Ultra-Violet Spectrometer; Near-Infrared (IR) Spectrometer; Thermal IR Camera; Radio Frequency Spectrometer; Mass Spectrometer; Altimeter; Sounding Radar; Magnetometer; and Plasma Spectrometer. The nominal cost of this mission is $3.0B, making it a large strategic science mission.

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)

Cite as: arXiv:2102.08282 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2102.08282v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Carly Howett 

[v1] Tue, 16 Feb 2021 17:09:49 UTC (11,567 KB)

SpaceRef staff editor.