Original Article

Experimental Astronomy

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 753-791

First online:

Uranus Pathfinder: exploring the origins and evolution of Ice Giant planets

  • Christopher S. ArridgeAffiliated withMullard Space Science Laboratory, Department of Space and Climate Physics, University College LondonThe Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck Email author 
  • , Craig B. AgnorAffiliated withSchool of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London
  • , Nicolas AndréAffiliated withCentre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements / CNRS
  • , Kevin H. BainesAffiliated withNASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • , Leigh N. FletcherAffiliated withDepartment of Physics, University of Oxford
  • , Daniel GautierAffiliated withLESIA, CNRS-Observatoire de Paris
  • , Mark D. HofstadterAffiliated withNASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • , Geraint H. JonesAffiliated withMullard Space Science Laboratory, Department of Space and Climate Physics, University College LondonThe Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck
  • , Laurent LamyAffiliated withLESIA, CNRS-Observatoire de Paris
    • , Yves LangevinAffiliated withInstitut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, CNRS/Univ. Paris-Sud 11
    • , Olivier MousisAffiliated withInstitut UTINAM, CNRS, OSU THETA, Université de Franche-Comté
    • , Nadine NettelmannAffiliated withUniversität Rostock
    • , Christopher T. RussellAffiliated withInstitute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California Los Angeles
    • , Tom StallardAffiliated withDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester
    • , Matthew S. TiscarenoAffiliated withCornell University
    • , Gabriel TobieAffiliated withLPG, CNRS, Université de Nantes
    • , Andrew BaconAffiliated withSystems Engineering and Asssessment Ltd.
    • , Chris ChalonerAffiliated withSystems Engineering and Asssessment Ltd.
    • , Michael GuestAffiliated withSystems Engineering and Asssessment Ltd.
    • , Steve KembleAffiliated withEADS Astrium
    • , Lisa PeacockeAffiliated withEADS Astrium
    • , Nicholas AchilleosAffiliated withDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, University College London
    • , Thomas P. AndertAffiliated withUniversität der Bundeswehr
    • , Don BanfieldAffiliated withCornell University
    • , Stas BarabashAffiliated withSwedish Institute of Space Physics
    • , Mathieu BarthelemyAffiliated withUniversité Joseph Fourier/CNRS-INSU / Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG)
    • , Cesar BertucciAffiliated withInstitute of Astronomy and Space Physics, University of Buenos Aires
    • , Pontus BrandtAffiliated withJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
    • , Baptiste CecconiAffiliated withLESIA, CNRS-Observatoire de Paris
    • , Supriya ChakrabartiAffiliated withCentre for Space Physics, Boston University
    • , Andy F. ChengAffiliated withJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
    • , Ulrich ChristensenAffiliated withMax Planck Institute for Solar System Research
    • , Apostolos ChristouAffiliated withArmagh Observatory
    • , Andrew J. CoatesAffiliated withMullard Space Science Laboratory, Department of Space and Climate Physics, University College LondonThe Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck
    • , Glyn CollinsonAffiliated withNASA Goddard Space Flight Centre
    • , John F. CooperAffiliated withNASA Goddard Space Flight Centre
    • , Regis CourtinAffiliated withLESIA, CNRS-Observatoire de Paris
    • , Michele K. DoughertyAffiliated withThe Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London
    • , Robert W. EbertAffiliated withSouthwest Research Institute
    • , Marta EntradasAffiliated withDepartment of Science and Technology Studies, University College London
    • , Andrew N. FazakerleyAffiliated withMullard Space Science Laboratory, Department of Space and Climate Physics, University College LondonThe Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck
    • , Jonathan J. FortneyAffiliated withUniversity of California
    • , Marina GalandAffiliated withThe Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London
    • , Jaques GustinAffiliated withLaboratoire de Physique Atmosphérique et Planétaire, Université de Liège
    • , Matthew HedmanAffiliated withCornell University
    • , Ravit HelledAffiliated withDepartment of Earth and Space Sciences, University of California
    • , Pierre HenriAffiliated withLESIA, CNRS-Observatoire de Paris
    • , Sebastien HessAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado
    • , Richard HolmeAffiliated withSchool of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool
    • , Özgur KaratekinAffiliated withRoyal Observatory of Belgium
    • , Norbert KruppAffiliated withMax Planck Institute for Solar System Research
    • , Jared LeisnerAffiliated withDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa
    • , Javier Martin-TorresAffiliated withCentre for Astrobiology
    • , Adam MastersAffiliated withMullard Space Science Laboratory, Department of Space and Climate Physics, University College LondonThe Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck
    • , Henrik MelinAffiliated withDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester
    • , Steve MillerAffiliated withDepartment of Science and Technology Studies, University College London
    • , Ingo Müller-WodargAffiliated withThe Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London
    • , Benoît NoyellesAffiliated withNamur Centre for Complex Systems (NAXYS), University of Namur
    • , Chris ParanicasAffiliated withJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
    • , Imke de PaterAffiliated withUniversity of California
    • , Martin PätzoldAffiliated withRhenish Institute for Environmental Research, University of Cologne
    • , Renée PrangéAffiliated withLESIA, CNRS-Observatoire de Paris
    • , Eric QuémeraisAffiliated withLATMOS, CNRS
    • , Elias RoussosAffiliated withMax Planck Institute for Solar System Research
    • , Abigail M. RymerAffiliated withJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
    • , Agustin Sánchez-LavegaAffiliated withUniversity of the Basque Country
    • , Joachim SaurAffiliated withInstitute of Geophysics and Meteorology, University of Cologne
    • , Kunio M. SayanagiAffiliated withDepartment of Earth and Space Sciences, University of California
    • , Paul SchenkAffiliated withLunar and Planetary Institute
    • , Gerald SchubertAffiliated withDepartment of Earth and Space Sciences, University of California
    • , Nick SergisAffiliated withOffice for Space Research, Academy of Athens
    • , Frank SohlAffiliated withInstitute of Planetary Research, DLR
    • , Edward C. SittlerJr.Affiliated withNASA Goddard Space Flight Centre
    • , Nick A. TeanbyAffiliated withSchool of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol
    • , Silvia TellmannAffiliated withRhenish Institute for Environmental Research, University of Cologne
    • , Elizabeth P. TurtleAffiliated withJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
    • , Sandrine VinatierAffiliated withLESIA, CNRS-Observatoire de Paris
    • , Jan-Erik WahlundAffiliated withSwedish Institute of Space Physics
    • , Philippe ZarkaAffiliated withLESIA, CNRS-Observatoire de Paris

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Abstract

The “Ice Giants” Uranus and Neptune are a different class of planet compared to Jupiter and Saturn. Studying these objects is important for furthering our understanding of the formation and evolution of the planets, and unravelling the fundamental physical and chemical processes in the Solar System. The importance of filling these gaps in our knowledge of the Solar System is particularly acute when trying to apply our understanding to the numerous planetary systems that have been discovered around other stars. The Uranus Pathfinder (UP) mission thus represents the quintessential aspects of the objectives of the European planetary community as expressed in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015–2025. UP was proposed to the European Space Agency’s M3 call for medium-class missions in 2010 and proposed to be the first orbiter of an Ice Giant planet. As the most accessible Ice Giant within the M-class mission envelope Uranus was identified as the mission target. Although not selected for this call the UP mission concept provides a baseline framework for the exploration of Uranus with existing low-cost platforms and underlines the need to develop power sources suitable for the outer Solar System. The UP science case is based around exploring the origins, evolution, and processes at work in Ice Giant planetary systems. Three broad themes were identified: (1) Uranus as an Ice Giant, (2) An Ice Giant planetary system, and (3) An asymmetric magnetosphere. Due to the long interplanetary transfer from Earth to Uranus a significant cruise-phase science theme was also developed. The UP mission concept calls for the use of a Mars Express/Rosetta-type platform to launch on a Soyuz–Fregat in 2021 and entering into an eccentric polar orbit around Uranus in the 2036–2037 timeframe. The science payload has a strong heritage in Europe and beyond and requires no significant technology developments.

Keywords

Uranus Ice Giant Orbiter Giant planet atmosphere Ring system Interior Dynamo Magnetosphere Natural satellite