Boeing to study Neptune missions for NASA
BOEING NEWS RELEASE
Posted: June 2, 2004
While Boeing is preparing to deliver a proposal to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for what could become the nation's first nuclear-fission powered exploration spacecraft, the company also is using its unique space heritage and expertise to propel robotic solar system exploration farther than Jupiter.
NASA recently granted Boeing $250,000 to provide a technology development road map for supporting science objectives for a mission to Neptune under its Vision Missions studies program. Boeing, the only industrial entity to receive such a grant, is providing mission design solutions for a possible Neptune polar orbiter with atmospheric probes.
Like the gas giants Saturn and Jupiter, Neptune has no solid surface, and scientists believe further research of the planet's external and internal structures could yield greater insight into the processes that formed the solar system.
The Neptune Orbiter with Probes study will explore technological capabilities that would make a 21ST century second-decade flagship launch feasible and provide an assessment of nuclear-electric propulsion as a potential power source for the spacecraft. Dr. David Atkinson of the University of Idaho is the science principal investigator.
.....odd that the Neptune Orbiter with Probes concept makes no mention of an investigation of Neptune's moon Triton -- in size (2,707km diam.) about 22% smaller than Earth's moon, but observed by the Voyager 2 probe to be geologically active, with nitrogen gas and methane-ammonia-ice 'cryovolcanoes' and a thin nitrogen atmosphere (about 14 microbars)....