Bernd Dachwald, Wolfgang Seboldt, Horst
Loeb, Karl-Heinz Schartner
A Comparison of SEP and NEP for a Main Belt Asteroid Sample Return Mission
7th International Symposium on Launcher Technologies, 2007, Barcelona, Spain
Innovative interplanetary deep space missions, like a main belt asteroid sample return mission, require ever larger velocity increments (ΔVs) and thus ever more demanding propulsion capabilities. Providing much larger exhaust velocities than chemical high-thrust systems, electric low-thrust space-propulsion systems can significantly enhance or even enable such high-energy missions. In 1995, a European-Russian Joint Study Group (JSG) presented a study report on “Advanced Interplanetary Missions Using Nuclear-Electric Propulsion” (NEP). One of the investigated reference missions was a sample return (SR) from the main belt asteroid (19) Fortuna. The envisaged nuclear power plant, Topaz-25, however, could not be realized and also the worldwide developments in space reactor hardware stalled. In this paper, we investigate, whether such a mission is also feasible using a solar electric propulsion (SEP) system and compare our SEP results to corresponding NEP results.