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Venus sample return mission revisited

Abstract

A Venus sample return mission is very interesting from a scientific point of view, for example, analysing the composition of the soil will help us to understand the differences between Venus and Earth. However, such a mission is extremely challenging. On Venus the ground conditions are very harsh (460 °C, 9.6 MPa), the Delta V requirement from surface to orbit is close to the Earth case, and atmospheric drag means that a rocket launch must occur above 55 km and so an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is required to lift the samples to rocket altitude. Sample return missions have been studied in depth by NASA/JPL and ESA, and in the former case the proposed profile involves several critical points, each with a significant probability of failure:

  • Thermal exposure during sample drilling and ascent to launch altitude.

  • Fast balloon inflation, at 55 km altitude.

  • Difficulties to perform a rendezvous with an orbital vehicle if the upper stage is not manoeuvrable.

The purpose of this paper is to propose new methods for meeting the challenge at each critical step and reducing the risks to such a mission. In particular, we propose two innovative methods for thermal control on the lander: advanced thermal insulation and phase change materials.

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The data will be made available upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Dr Chris Arridge and Karen O’Flaherty for useful remarks and suggestions.

Funding

This work has not been funded, it was made by the free contribution of the authors.

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Correspondence to Dominique Valentian.

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Valentian, D., Koppel, C., Mairet, P. et al. Venus sample return mission revisited. Exp Astron (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10686-022-09858-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10686-022-09858-5

Keywords

  • Venus
  • Sample return
  • Electric
  • Chemical propulsion
  • Rendezvous
  • Thermal control
  • Balloon
  • Hydrogen
  • Micro-launcher