Rocket Lab shared details of the Venusian mission

Rocket Lab has shared the technical details of the first ever private mission to Venus. It will be launched next year in order to search for traces of life in the upper layers of the planet’s atmosphere.

Venusian Rocket Lab mission (concept). Source: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab first announced its intention to send its mission to Venus in 2020. Its goal will be astrobiological research. An automatic scout will study the upper layers of the Venusian atmosphere in order to search for signs indicating the possibility of the existence of colonies of microorganisms in them.

The mission flight plan is as follows. In May 2023, the Electron rocket will launch the Photon platform with a Venusian probe into low Earth orbit. Next, it will perform a series of course corrections, during which it will gradually increase its apogee. Then Photon will perform the final maneuver, which will direct it along the flight path to the Moon. The platform will take advantage of the gravity of the moon of our planet to leave the vicinity of the Earth and head to Venus. A meeting with it is scheduled for October 2023.

On approach to Venus, an automatic probe will separate from Photon. It is a 40-centimeter capsule with a total weight of 20 kg. Inside it will be located one scientific instrument (autofluorescence nephelometer), designed to conduct chemical analysis of the Venusian atmosphere and search for traces of organic substances in it.

Diagram of the Rocket Lab Venusian probe. Source: Rocket Lab

The probe will begin measurements at an altitude of 60 km and will continue them up to the 45 km mark (this phase will last 330 seconds). Then it will start transmitting the collected information to Earth, which will take about 20 minutes. A few minutes after the data relay is completed, the atmospheric pressure and temperature will become so high that they will destroy the capsule. Its remnants will reach the surface of Venus in about half an hour after that.

The landing scheme of the Venusian probe Rocket Lab. Source: Rocket Lab

If successful, the Rocket Lab probe will not only be the first ever private Venusian mission, but also the first mission in the last forty years to analyze its atmosphere. Recall that Rocket Lab is also engaged in the creation of a pair of ESCAPADE probes. They will be launched in 2024 as a passing cargo on board, paid for by NASA commercial carrier. After an eleven-month flight, the ESCAPADE spacecraft will enter orbit around Mars, after which they will study its atmosphere and magnetosphere.

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