Low-Cost Planetary Missions Utilizing Small Launch Vehicles and a Novel Launch Mode

Abstract:

The ability to substantially reduce the cost of planetary missions lies not only in the cost reductions to be found in spacecraft design but also in choice of launch vehicle. smaller launch vehicles are cheaper but are also less capable at lofting sufficiently large masses to interplanetary velocities, while excessive miniaturization of spacecraft subsystems typically leads to higher cost. Microcosm has identified a new launch technique using traditional vehicles and technologies to circumvent these restrictions for many solar system exploration missions. For the purposes of this paper, we named it the Modified Launch Mode (MLM). This method can substantially increase the payload mass capabilities of all launch vehicles for high energy (high C3) missions. It is particularly advantageous in missions that require onboard propulsion at destination and therefore can make repeated use of that system.
The technique has been described elsewhere and only a summary is presented here. This paper summarizes the newly available spectrum of low-cost planetary capability that this technique makes available to the small satellite community using smaller, cheaper vehicles to carry their spacecraft then have been commonly considered as necessary. A multi-faceted trade of launch vehicle capability against spacecraft size will be appropriate to minimize overall mission cost or to enhance mission capabilities within specified cost constraints. Emphasis is placed on the matching of minimum-cost launch vehicles to small spacecraft now being considered for deep-space exploration.

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Dawson, Simon D., and Hans F. Meissinger. 1997. “Low-Cost Planetary Missions Utilizing Small Launch Vehicles and a Novel Launch Mode,” Proceedings of the AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Delivery Systems, SSC97-IX-5.