Uranus orbiter and probe

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A Uranus orbiter and probe is a proposed mission to probe Uranus, its atmosphere, rings, and moons, was recommended to NASA in 2011 by its Planetary Science Decadal Survey 2013–2022.[1] A mission study[2] was conducted which also considered Neptune; however, for feasibility reasons Neptune was dropped in favor of Uranus. Two white papers on Uranus exploration were also submitted to the decadal survey.[3][4] The survey listed the Uranus orbiter and probe as the third priority for a flagship mission after the MAX-C rover and the JEO component of the Europa Jupiter System Mission.

Although a chemical propulsion mission to Uranus is possible, solar-powered electric propulsion is preferred because it allows a larger spacecraft mass. The proposed mission would launch in the years 2020–2023. Travel time to Uranus with solar-electric propulsion would be 13 years, with one Earth-flyby gravity-assist, with launch-windows from Earth of 21 days every year.[2]

In early 2012, because of the FY2013 budget proposal, NASA flagship-class planetary missions were put on hold.[5][6] U.S. plans to develop more planetary flagships beyond the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) are waiting until the budget situation changes.[6] A cheaper mission might happen as a medium-class mission.[6] There is also a study that recommended a New Frontiers orbiter for Uranus.[3]

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