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QUEST: A New Frontiers Uranus Orbiter Mission Concept Study

Jarmak, S. and Leonard, E. and Akins, A. and Dahl, E. and Cremons, D. R. and Cofield, S. and Curtis, A. and Dong, C. and Dunham, E. T. and Journaux, B. and Murakami, D. and Ng, W. and Piquette, M. and Girija, A. Pradeepkumar and Rink, K. and Schurmeier, L. and Stein, N. and Tallarida, N. and Telus, M. and Lowes, L. and Budney, C. and Mitchell, K. L. (2020) QUEST: A New Frontiers Uranus Orbiter Mission Concept Study. Acta Astronautica, 170 . pp. 6-26. ISSN 0094-5765.

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The ice giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, are fundamentally different from the gas giant and terrestrial planets. Though ice giants represent the most common size of exoplanet and possess characteristics that challenge our understanding of the way our solar system formed and evolved, they remain the only class of planetary object without a dedicated spacecraft mission. The inclusion of a Uranus orbiter as the third highest priority Flagship mission in the NASA Planetary Science Decadal Survey “Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013–2022” indicates a high level of support for exploration of the ice giants by the planetary science community. However, given the substantial costs associated with a flagship mission, it is critical to explore lower cost options if we intend to visit Uranus within an ideal launch window of 2029 - 2034 when a Jupiter gravity assist becomes available. In this paper, we describe the Quest to Uranus to Explore Solar System Theories (QUEST), a New Frontiers class Uranus orbiter mission concept study performed at the 30th Annual NASA/JPL Planetary Science Summer Seminar. The proposed QUEST platform is a spin-stabilized spacecraft designed to undergo highly elliptical, polar orbits around Uranus during a notional one-year primary science mission. The proposed major science goals of the mission are (1) to use Uranus as a natural laboratory to better understand the dynamos that drive magnetospheres in the solar system and beyond and (2) to identify the energy transport mechanisms in Uranus' magnetic, atmospheric, and interior environments in contrast with the other giant planets. With substantial mass, power, and cost margins, this mission concept demonstrates a compelling, feasible option for a New Frontiers Uranus orbiter mission.

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Stein, N.0000-0003-3385-9957
Additional Information:© 2020 IAA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Received 31 May 2019, Revised 10 December 2019, Accepted 20 January 2020, Available online 22 January 2020. The authors would like to thank the Planetary Science Summer Seminar organizers Joyce Armijo, Leslie Lowes, Karl Mitchell and Charles Budney for their incredible support and mentorship. We would also like to thank William Smythe, Mark Hofstader, Shannon Brown, and Thaddaeus Voss for their guidance, and the members of Team X at JPL for their assistance in developing this mission concept. In addition, we would like to thank Liang Wang at Princeton University for visualizing the 3-D Uranus magnetosphere simulation result from the Gkeyll ten-moment multifluid code that is publicly available at This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The information presented about the QUEST mission concept is pre-decisional and is provided for planning and discussion purposes only. The cost information contained in this document is of a budgetary and planning nature and is intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute a commitment on the part of JPL and/or Caltech.
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Subject Keywords:Uranus; Planetary Science Summer Seminar; Ice Giants; Orbiter Mission Concept Study; New Frontiers
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200124-140722377
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Official Citation:S. Jarmak, E. Leonard, A. Akins, E. Dahl, D.R. Cremons, S. Cofield, A. Curtis, C. Dong, E.T. Dunham, B. Journaux, D. Murakami, W. Ng, M. Piquette, A. Pradeepkumar Girija, K. Rink, L. Schurmeier, N. Stein, N. Tallarida, M. Telus, L. Lowes, C. Budney, K.L. Mitchell, QUEST: A New Frontiers Uranus orbiter mission concept study, Acta Astronautica, Volume 170, 2020, Pages 6-26, ISSN 0094-5765, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:100906
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:25 Jan 2020 03:31
Last Modified:31 Jan 2020 21:12

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