Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More Details on Io Volcano Observer

As mentioned last month, NASA has commissioned several concept studies for Discovery-class mission that make use of the new Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) power source, a more efficient RTG that makes use of plutonium for power. One of these concepts is the Io Volcano Observer (IVO), a mission to study Io's volcanic activity.

The leader of the study, Alfred McEwen, submitted an abstract on the mission concept to the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Conference (LPLC) to be held next week in Tucson. I will be there giving a talk on the state of Cassini Imaging, particularly imaging of Titan. The abstract makes public a few more details on the study. The IVO team envision a small spacecraft that orbits Jupiter in a highly inclined orbit, encountering Io at every periapse. The high-inclination orbit helps to reduce IVO's radiation exposure during periapse. Each orbit would last between 30 and 200 days, though shorter orbit would provide better distant monitoring.

Due to the low-cost of the mission, the payload has to be kept simplistic. The team has currently include a baseline payload of a narrow-angle camera (with some color imaging capability), a thermal imager (capable of mapping Io's thermal emission at 3, 8, and 15 microns, and at some silicate absorption bands), a Neutral Mass Spectrometer, and a Radiation detector. Other potential instruments include a Wide-angle camera, an ultra-stable oscillator (used for gravity measurements), a near-infrared spectrometer (I guess a toss-up between this and the thermal mapper), an ultraviolet spectrometer, and a magnetometer.

The team has also outlined the scientific goals for this mission which include understanding Io's volcanic processes, composition, heat flow, and environment.

Link: Mission Concept: Io Volcano Observer (IVO) [www.lpl.arizona.edu]

1 comment:

  1. as much as i do love europa... it would be so amazing to have a mission specifically aimed at Io. Even just for great PR, a mission at Io would be fascinating to the general public. Most people still don’t even know Io exists. It would be like a mission to a newly discovered sci-fictional other world to the average person with volcanic explosions and exotic colors.