Rocket Lab provides more details about first private mission to Venus

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 17-08-2022 09:36 IST | Created: 17-08-2022 09:36 IST
Rocket Lab provides more details about first private mission to Venus
Image Credit: Rocket Lab

Venus, our closest planetary neighbour, is quite similar to Earth in terms of size, composition and distance from the Sun, yet it is so different. Past research suggests that it was once habitable like our planet. To further search for habitable conditions and signs of life on Venus, Rocket Lab will fly the first private mission to the planet next year.

The company plans to send a small probe to around 30 miles' altitude, where Venus' atmospheric conditions are closer to those found on Earth. While more than 30 Venus missions have been undertaken, Rocket Lab's will be the first private exploration of the planet.

According to Rocket Lab's website - In September 2020, scientists at MIT and Cardiff University announced they had observed what may be signs of life in the clouds of our planetary neighbour, Venus. Their observations indicated the potential presence of phosphine, a gas typically produced by living organisms.

A 2019 study from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies found that Venus could have had shallow oceans on the surface for two to three billion years and this would have supported temperatures of between 68 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Around 700 million years ago though, a resurfacing event released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, turning Venus into a dangerous, inhospitable planet where atmospheric temperatures reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

A new paper provides more details about Rocket Lab's upcoming mission to Venus. According to the paper, the mission is planned for launch in May 2023 on Electron, the company's dedicated small launch vehicle, from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 (LC-1) with a backup launch opportunity in January 2025.

The mission will follow a hyperbolic trajectory with the high-energy Photon spacecraft performing as the cruise stage and then deploying a small probe into the Venus atmosphere for the science phase of the mission. The probe mission will spend about 5 min in the Venus cloud layers at 48-60 km altitude above the surface and collect in situ measurements.

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