All details of the first private scientific mission to Venus

All details of the first private scientific mission to Venus

Rocket Lab released some details about the first private scientific mission to Venus yesterday. In fact, Rocket Lab intends to launch a probe to the planet to study the composition of the upper atmosphere. The main object of the study, to be precise, will be the area between 48 and 60 km. At this altitude, in fact, the temperature remains at levels similar to those of the Earth, which is one of the reasons why this environment remains one of the possible candidates for the search for life in the solar system.

The mission is fully funded by Rocket Lab and will be launched in May 2023.

Mission objectives and characteristics

The instrument was selected by Rocket Lab because the mission's main objective is to attempt to detect organic particles in the upper atmosphere of Venus.

The second goal is to determine the composition of the clouds of Venus and therefore to understand more precisely the refraction of the atmosphere. This is important because Venus has a very strong greenhouse effect that makes the planet's surface hottest in the solar system. A precise understanding of the greenhouse effect phenomenon will enable us to explore more effective solutions to combat the Earth's greenhouse effect.

The zone and trajectory of its entry into the Venus atmosphere were designed to provide about 330 seconds of scientific research. They will begin at an altitude of 60 km, about two minutes after the entrance into the Venus atmosphere. They will end at an altitude of 45 km when the probe passes through the cloud layer and enters a denser atmosphere. Here, up to the destructive landing, all the data will be transmitted back to Earth by means of an antenna transmitting to the S-band.


The probe in which the scientific instrument will be located was specially designed to counteract the aggressive composition of the Venus atmosphere. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The thermal shield, the dark yellow part of the photograph above, is a typical thermal shield for extreme entry conditions, a thermal shield originally developed by NASA and made of carbon compounds; the upper part, on the other hand, is made of polytetrafluoroethylene, such as TEFLON, solid and anti-corrosive material, but also transparent to radio frequencies, which is a fundamental characteristic of the mission ' s scientific results.


The probe will be launched in May 2023 on the Electron rocket. This launch vehicle, which Rocket Lab launched in 2018, is capable of taking up to 300 kg into low-Earth orbit. It can only fly to Venus through the Photon platform, which will replace the launch stage normally used for low-Earth orbit missions.

The Photon platform is another patented Rocket Lab technology and is essentially a microsatellite doser. In fact, it provides multiple-ignition and high-precision motion for small cubes, implemented by the Hyper Curie engine. For this mission, it will be used in a version called the high-energy Photon already used to launch the NASA CAPSTONE mission to the Moon. This platform provides a link to Deep Space Network and GPS in close proximity to the Earth. It also has Star Tracker to match its position with fixed stars.

Once it reaches a low Earth orbit of 250 km x 1,200 km, the Electron thrust will gradually lift up the apogee, including its engine every time the probe is in the perigee. This strategy has already been used for CAPSTONE and allows it to leave Earth orbit with a relatively small amount of fuel.

This ignition will take place before it reaches an orbit with an apogee of 700,000 km, from which it will emerge from the Earth's gravitational influence to the elliptical orbit around the Sun. Four correction manoeuvres, called trajectory correction manoeuvres, will be carried out here. The Photon will maintain an orbit that will allow it to meet Venus in October 2023. Here the Photon Hyper Curie engine will re-activate to direct the probe to the planet's atmosphere. About 30 minutes before landing, the separation will take place and the launch and data collection phase will begin.