TitleSolar Probe Plus: Mission design challenges and trades
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsGuo, Y
JournalActa Astronautica
Pagination1063 - 1072
Date Published11/2010
KeywordsParker Data Used; parker solar probe; Solar Probe Plus

NASA plans to launch the first mission to the Sun, named Solar Probe Plus, as early as 2015, after a comprehensive feasibility study that significantly changed the original Solar Probe mission concept. The original Solar Probe mission concept, based on a Jupiter gravity assist trajectory, was no longer feasible under the new guidelines given to the mission. A complete redesign of the mission was required, which called for developing alternative trajectories that excluded a flyby of Jupiter. Without the very powerful gravity assist from Jupiter it was extremely difficult to get to the Sun, so designing a trajectory to reach the Sun that is technically feasible under the new mission guidelines became a key enabler to this highly challenging mission. Mission design requirements and challenges unique to this mission are reviewed and discussed, including various mission scenarios and six different trajectory designs utilizing various planetary gravity assists that were considered. The V 5GA trajectory design using five Venus gravity assists achieves a perihelion of 11.8 solar radii ( RS) in 3.3 years without any deep space maneuver (DSM). The V 7GA trajectory design reaches a perihelion of 9.5 RS using seven Venus gravity assists in 6.39 years without any DSM. With nine Venus gravity assists, the V 9GA trajectory design shows a solar orbit at inclination as high as 37.9° from the ecliptic plane can be achieved with the time of flight of 5.8 years. Using combined Earth and Venus gravity assists, as close as 9 RS from the Sun can be achieved in less than 10 years of flight time at moderate launch C3. Ultimately the V 7GA trajectory was chosen as the new baseline mission trajectory. Its design allowing for science investigation right after launch and continuing for nearly 7 years is unprecedented for interplanetary missions. The redesigned Solar Probe Plus mission is not only feasible under the new guidelines but also significantly outperforms the original mission concept in both technical implementation and scientific returns.


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