The case for a New Frontiers-class Uranus Orbiter : System science at an underexplored and unique world with a mid-scale mission

Cohen, Ian and Beddingfield, Chloe and Chancia, Robert and DiBraccio, G.A. and Hedman, M. and MacKenzie, Shannon and Mauk, Barry H. and Sayanagi, Kunio M. and Soderlund, Krista and Turtle, E. P. and Ahrens, Caitlin and Arridge, Chris and Brooks, Shawn and Bunce, E. J. and Charnoz, S. and Coustenis, Athena and Dillman, Robert A. and Dutta, Soumyo and Fletcher, Leigh and Harbison, R.A. and Helled, R. and Holme, R. and Jozwiak, Lauren and Kasaba, Y. and Kollman, P. and Luszcz-Cook, Statia and Mandt, Kathleen and Mousis, O. and Mura, Alessandro and Murakami, G. and Parisi, Marzia and Rymer, Am. and Stanley, Sabine and Stephan, Katrin and Vervack Jr., Ronald J and Wong, Michael H and Wurz, Peter (2022) The case for a New Frontiers-class Uranus Orbiter : System science at an underexplored and unique world with a mid-scale mission. The Planetary Science Journal, 3 (3): 58.

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Current knowledge of the Uranian system is limited to observations from the flyby of Voyager 2 and limited remote observations. However, Uranus remains a highly compelling scientific target due to the unique properties of many aspects of the planet itself and its system. Future exploration of Uranus must focus on cross-disciplinary science that spans the range of research areas from the planet's interior, atmosphere, and magnetosphere to the its rings and satellites, as well as the interactions between them. Detailed study of Uranus by an orbiter is crucial not only for valuable insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system but also for providing ground truths for the understanding of exoplanets. As such, exploration of Uranus will not only enhance our understanding of the ice giant planets themselves but also extend to planetary dynamics throughout our solar system and beyond. The timeliness of exploring Uranus is great, as the community hopes to return in time to image unseen portions of the satellites and magnetospheric configurations. This urgency motivates evaluation of what science can be achieved with a lower-cost, potentially faster-turnaround mission, such as a New Frontiers–class orbiter mission. This paper outlines the scientific case for and the technological and design considerations that must be addressed by future studies to enable a New Frontiers–class Uranus orbiter with balanced cross-disciplinary science objectives. In particular, studies that trade scientific scope and instrumentation and operational capabilities against simpler and cheaper options must be fundamental to the mission formulation.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
The Planetary Science Journal
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Deposited On:
07 Feb 2022 14:50
Last Modified:
15 Jul 2024 22:19