Launch period analysis for the Jupiter Gravity Assist opportunities to Pluto
Reyes, Michelle D.
Ross, I. Michael
Matousek, Steven E.
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Pluto remains the last outer planet as yet unsurveyed by any passing spacecraft. The spacecraft, Pluto Kuiper Express, is part of an approach by NASA to build, smaller, better, cheaper satellites for future space exploration. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is designing a mission that will conduct reconnaissance of the Pluto/Charon system, determining their composition, atmosphere, and geological characteristics. If successful, the spacecraft will be sent to observe objects in the Kuiper Belt, laying just beyond the boundary of the solar system. To reach Pluto in a reasonable time frame at the lowest cost, several trajectory options must be carefully considered. This thesis presents a comprehensive analysis of a trajectory consisting of a Jupiter Gravity Assist flyby to Pluto. JPL specified two nominal launch dates of November 2003 and December 2004. The daily C3 requirements for these dates were determined by using the JPL programs MIDAS and CATO. This facilitated the creation of nominal launch periods for these two dates. By comparing the launch energy required by the trajectory on each day of the period to the performance capabilities of several medium lift launch vehicles, launch strategies for each day were compiled. These results allow JPL to make the final decision of the most feasible arrangement for launch, and build an alternate launch plan should the primary become unavailable.
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