Sciencecraft process

Patricia M. Beauchamp, Leon Alkalai, Robert H. Brown, Richard W. Capps, Gun Shing Chen, Michael P. Crisp, James A. Cutts, J. M. Davidson, Stanley W. Petrick, David H. Rodgers, Gregg Vane, Laurance A. Soderblom, Roger V. Yelle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


In this paper, the authors propose a new process for the development and operation of unmanned vehicles for the exploration of space. We call the vehicle (and the process used to create it) sciencecraft. A Sciencecraft is an integrated unit that combines into a single system those elements (but no more) which are necessary to achieve the science objectives of the mission, including science instruments, electronics, telecommunications, power, and propulsion. the design of a sciencecraft begins with the definition of the mission science objectives. This is followed by the establishment of measurement goals and the definition of a critical data set. Next an observational sequence is developed, which will provide the data set. This step is followed by the design of the integrated sensor system that will make the observations. The final step in the development of a sciencecraft is the design of the hardware subsystems needed to deliver the sensor to its target and return the science data to the earth. This approach assures that the sciencecraft hardware design and overall architecture will be driven by the science objectives and the sensor requirements rather than the reverse, as has historically been the case. Throughout the design process, there is an emphasis on shared functionality, shared redundancy, and reduced cost. We illustrate the power of the sciencecraft approach by describing the Planetary Integrated Camera Spectrometer (PICS), an integrated sensor system in which the 'sciencecraft' process has been applied to the development of a single subsystem, which integrates multiple functionalities. PICS is a case-in-point where the sciencecraft process has been successfully demonstrated. We then describe a sciencecraft mission for exploration of the outer Solar System, including flybys of Uranus, Neptune, and an object in the Kuiper Belt. This mission, called the Kuiper Express, will use solar electric propulsion to shape its trajectory in the inner solar system and will use no nuclear power. The Kuiper Express is an example of how the sciencecraft approach can return 'voyager class science at ten cents on the dollar'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 1996
EventSpace Sciencecraft Control and Tracking in the New Millennium - Denver, CO, USA
Duration: Aug 6 1996Aug 6 1996


OtherSpace Sciencecraft Control and Tracking in the New Millennium
CityDenver, CO, USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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