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Future Spacecraft Bound for Uranus Could Deploy Its Own Probe

Most of the spacecraft humankind has sent into the depths of space use at least in part the energy of Sol, the star that is at the center of our solar system. The only problem is, the farther they move from it, the harder it is to harness this energy.
SCATTER project concept 1 photo
Take Uranus, for instance, the target of several planned exploration missions for the future. The seventh planet in our system is located at a distance of close to 3 billion km from the Sun (1.84 billion miles), and that could be a problem in getting enough energy.

At the end of February, NASA announced the list of projects it will fund through the Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, with several crazy, but possibly game-changing technologies.

The Sustained CubeSat Activity Through Transmitted Electromagnetic Radiation (SCATTER) is one of them. The concept envisions a future hardware combination comprising a parent spacecraft, and a probe it could host and deploy.

The parent spacecraft would be able to launch the probe and it would be able to remotely power and control the hardware sent toward Uranus, using a laser transmitter. This solution allows the probe to operate even without energy harvested from the Sun, or without access to a battery power source.

“Using these probes allows a single mission to provide enhanced scientific measurements such as magnetic field gradients, leading to a better understanding of the ice giants, which are the least explored planets in our solar system,” said in a statement Sigrid Close from the Stanford University in California, the brain behind the research.

NASA will pump up to $125,000 into this project over the next nine months, and will then decide if the project is worthy of entering Phase II. The agency warns that this technology, like all others supported through NIAC, “are not considered and may never become NASA missions.”

press release
 
 
 
 
 

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