Dr. Bob Noble (SLAC) visit our group and give colloquium speech

Sep 10, 2010

mission is addressed in this presentation.

“Feasibility of Radioisotope Electric Propulsion for Sample Return Missions”

Fast sample return from primitive objects in the outer Solar System would open an exciting new chapter in space science, but the vast distances make this a daunting task. A sample return mission involves several complicated steps to reach an object and obtain a sample, but only the interplanetary return phase of the mission is addressed in this presentation.

Radioisotope electric propulsion (REP) is explored as a means to propel small, dedicated return vehicles for transferring sub-kilogram samples from deep space to Earth. Return times for both Earth orbital rendezvous and faster, direct atmospheric re-entry trajectories are calculated for objects as far away as 100 AU. A new option is also explored to bring the REP return vehicle to a Mars orbit, assuming that in the future there will already be robotic shuttles for transferring samples from Mars to Earth. This avoids the environmental issue of bringing a nuclear-fueled vehicle back to Earth and permits the re-use of the REP vehicle for a later mission.