This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

25 May 2010

NASA Exploration Enterprise Workshop: NEOs (specifically in ESMD Robotic Scout Precursor Missions)

As NASA reveals more details on their new plans (FY2011 Budget details and plans), there are some interesting NEO aspects of the plan, specifically a human NEO mission in the mid 2020s and then a series of robotic precursors beyond what has been envisioned in NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Slides from Day 1 (25 May 2010) of the NASA Exploration Enterprise Workshop have been released and there are multiple interesting aspects related to NEOs, specifically a presentation by Jay Jenkins about the Exploration Precursor Robotic Missions (xPRM). These are series of new robotic missions to the moon, Mars, and asteroids (separate from SMD). Generally this could add more funding for actual larger ($500-$800M) and smaller ($100-$200M) mission to NEOs.

There are references to two notional, Point of Departure (POD), mission concepts (thus extremely notional) in 2014 called NEO Exploration Rendezvous Orbiter (NERO) and a 2019 mission (see below for more information).
Some highlights of the ESMD Robotic Precursor Mission from the presentation...

NASA Planning for FY11 calls for a “steady stream of [Exploration] Robotic
Precursor missions” and related activities:
– We define this effort as Exploration Precursor Robotic Missions (xPRM)
– The xPRM effort would consist of two Programs:
• xPRP: set of linked flight missions, instrument developments, and R&D for the purpose of acquiring applied precursor knowledge for human spaceflight (HSF)
– Cost range $500M to $800M (total mission life cycle cost with launch)
• xScout: focused, less-expensive, higher-risk missions, with cost cap of $200M including launch

• Science Mission Directorate (SMD) missions are driven almost entirely by science objectives set by the National Academies Decadal Survey process, and therefore do not typically address high-priority Exploration precursor/HSF objectives
• xPRM missions will be designed to conduct the precursor measurements/experiments to quantitatively inform and support HSF objectives
– These are different objectives that lead to different activities in many cases

• xPRM is a budget line “umbrella” encompassing two proposed (NPR 7120.5) Programs
• Exploration Precursor Robotic Program (xPRP) managed by MSFC
– Flight Missions:
• Precursor measurements/experiments to enable safe and effective HSF beyond LEO
• Platforms for technology demonstration
– Instrument Development (Missions of Opportunity)
• Enhance investigation opportunities and promote partnerships
• Fly on non-xPRP missions
– Research and Analysis for Exploration
• Turn data into Strategic Knowledge for Exploration
– Engineering Information, Visualization, Dissemination
• Exploration Scouts (xScouts) managed by ARC:
– Small ($100M -$200M incl access to space), higher-risk

XScout Program

• Principal Investigator (PI)-led or small, common approach to reduce costs
• Higher risk, more focused investigations
• Assume 18-24 mo cadence
• Co-manifest with xPRP missions where practical
• First launch 2014
– Stretch: Goal of 2013 launch readiness (requires dedicated launch)
• Budgeting $100-$200 M per mission
– Includes approx. $50M for access to space (e.g.: Dual-Payload Attachment Fitting, co-manifest or small Expendable Launch Vehicle)
• Mission content:
– Focused scope in support of HSF objectives:
• Could be threshold measurements or existence-proof experiments
– xScout AOs written to complement xPRP portfolio with the goal of accomplishing common xPRM objectives

NOTIONAL Point of Departure Asteroid Mission Concepts:

2014: NEO Exploration Rendezvous Orbiter (NERO) - NOTIONAL Point of Departure – Subject to Change

Discovery-class, with scope similar to NEAR-Shoemaker (rendezvous and close proximity conops with end-game “touchdown”) but geared toward HSF objectives:
– Hazards, Prox-Ops, Quantify engineering boundary conditions, Resources
• Measurements (potential candidates):
– Sub-meter-per-pixel imaging in multiple colors
– Geodetic imaging lidar altimetry (topography)
– Compositional mapping via multiple approaches,
• Gamma-ray/Neutron Spectrometry (GRNS) best if low altitude orbit can be established for months, or hyperspectral spectroscopy (0.4 to 5 um)
– Small sounding-imaging-radar or long-wavelength sounder
• 2014 launch with results in 2015/16, would be in time to influence engineering concepts for HSF to NEO class missions in 2025
• Launch may permit co-manifest opportunity with first xScout
• Option:
– Investigating feasibility of modifying early xPRM portfolio to investigate several NEO targets early

2019: NEO TBD Mission - NOTIONAL Point of Departure – Subject to Change

Little Definition to date:
– Later mission requires less definition at this time
– Objectives Definition Team (ODT)-process against refined HSF objectives will be used
• Implementation Options in discussion:
– Discovery/New Frontiers-Class observation platform rendezvous
– Pair of ESPA-derived prop systems with a “to be defined” instrumentation package to separate targets
• Separate targets may be attainable with chemical prop by lunar fly-by redirection or by near Earth phasing orbit.
– 3 to 6 spacecraft in single launch “shotgun” with small instrumentation package and solar electric propulsion systems to separate targets
• Investigation Options under discussion
– Proximity remote sensing, beacon placement, small hoppers, touch & go, grappling, sample return (especially relevant to resources)

Link: Explorations Precursor Robotic Missions (xPRM) - Day 1 Presentations - May 25, 2010

Link: NASA Exploration Enterprise Workshop (25 - 26 May 2010) (NASA Site)

Link: NASA Exploration Enterprise Workshop (25 - 26 May 2010) (AIAA Site)

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