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Asteroid surface probes: A low-cost approach for the in situ exploration of small solar system objects

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6 Author(s)
Cottingham, C.M. ; Ball Aerosp.&Technol. Corp., Boulder, CO ; Deininger, W.D. ; Dissly, R.W. ; Epstein, K.W.
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In-situ characterization of the surface properties of small solar system objects, such as asteroids and comets, is important to understanding their properties and evolution. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.'s asteroid surface probes (ASP) provide a vehicle to gather specific in-situ scientific data that cannot be obtained from orbiting craft. A simple architecture with a small form factor, taking advantage of miniaturized, shock-resistant electronics and sensors, allows these probes to accommodate a variety of scientific instrumentation in softball to basketball-sized packages. The small size enables the probes to be deployed as additional payloads on host spacecraft, rather than requiring dedicated missions. This paper discusses the system concept and architecture of Ball's ASPs, benefits of their size and simplicity, unique scientific data available from in-situ measurements, and the flexibility of multiple configuration/instrumentation options. We also discuss ongoing development work and near-term plans to increase the TRL level of many of the associated technologies.

Published in:

Aerospace conference, 2009 IEEE

Date of Conference:

7-14 March 2009