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VERITAS (spacecraft)

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Illustration of VERITAS spacecraft in orbit around Venus
Illustration of VERITAS spacecraft in orbit around Venus
Mission typeVenus Orbiter
OperatorJet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA
Mission duration3 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerLockheed Martin
Start of mission
Launch dateNo earlier than 2031 (official)
November 2029 (proposed)[1]
Venus Emissivity Mapper (VEM)
Venus Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (VISAR)
Deep Space Atomic Clock-2 (DSAC-2)
← Psyche

VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) is an upcoming mission from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to map the surface of the planet Venus in high resolution. The combination of topography, near-infrared spectroscopy, and radar image data will provide knowledge of Venus's tectonic and impact history, gravity, geochemistry, the timing and mechanisms of volcanic resurfacing, and the mantle processes responsible for them.

On 4 November 2022, NASA announced the postponement of the mission launch from 2027 to 2031, citing institutional problems at JPL delaying the launch of Psyche.[2] The mission's Principal Investigator Suzanne Smrekar has counterproposed a November 2029 launch date, which she argued would require only modest "bridge" funding and compared to the 2031 option would offer lower overall cost and fewer conflicts with DAVINCI and EnVision; this position obtained endorsement by a Congressional committee in October 2023.[1][3]

Proposal history[edit]

VERITAS was one of dozens of proposals submitted in 2015 to potentially become the 13th mission of NASA’s Discovery Program. Suzanne Smrekar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) would serve as the principal investigator, and JPL would be the managing agency. On 30 September 2015, VERITAS was selected as one of five finalists.[4] On 4 January 2017, two other proposals to study small bodies, Lucy and Psyche, were selected as the 13th and 14th Discovery missions, respectively.[5]

VERITAS was again proposed for the Discovery Program in 2019, and was selected for Phase A funding on 13 February 2020.[6] On 2 June 2021, it was selected, along with DAVINCI+, to fly as one of the next Discovery missions.[7][8] Each mission will get approximately US$500 million in funding. VERITAS was originally planned to be launched between the years 2028 and 2030.[7] However, work on the mission was put on hold in November 2022, and the launch was delayed by at least three years (to no earlier than 2031), after an independent review of the Psyche mission found significant institutional issues at NASA and JPL.[9] The FY2024 budget request for VERITAS at $1.5M, released in March 2023, represented a near-complete freeze of the mission attested to be "functionally a soft cancellation".[10] This has been reverted in the FY24 bill released March 3, requesting NASA seek sufficient funding for the VERITAS Venus mission to enable a launch by the end of the decade.[11]


Venus is roughly the same size as Earth, but has a drastically different climate and surface

VERITAS will gather data to help scientists to answer three primary questions about Venus:[12]

  1. How has its geology evolved over time?
  2. What geologic processes are currently operating on it?
  3. Has water been present on or near its surface?

Understanding Venus's geology is of significant scientific interest because of its similarities to Earth. Venus's size, age, and composition are all broadly similar to Earth's, but its environment is significantly different and less hospitable to life. Understanding Venus's geologic evolution therefore will help answer questions about the formation of planets hospitable to life.[12] A key step in developing an understanding of this evolution is an investigation of Venus's current geology. Current data is highly suggestive of recent and active volcanism on Venus, but the extent of this volcanic activity is not completely known.[13][14] Moreover, it is unknown to what degree surface water was historically present on Venus and what role subsurface water plays in Venus's modern geology.[12]

A comparison of past surface-imaging missions to Venus, of which Magellan is the most recent

VERITAS will collect data to help answer these questions in several ways. High-resolution imagery will be obtained using an X-band radar configured as a single pass interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR).[15] This radar data will be coupled with a multispectral near-infrared (NIR) emissivity mapping capability. VERITAS will map surface topography with a spatial resolution of 250m and 5m vertical accuracy, and generate radar imagery with 30m spatial resolution.[16][15][17] This high-resolution imaging data will allow scientists to locate active volcanic eruptions, to understand the age and composition of features on the planet's surface, and better understand the planet's overall geology.[18] The spacecraft's communication system will also be used to perform a gravity science experiment to investigate variations in Venus' gravitational field. The spacecraft's telecom system will be used to map gravity strength at Venus' surface, providing a uniform resolution of better than 160 km.[12][19] The data will provide an estimate of Venus' core size and information about topographic features that lie underneath the planet's surface.[20][21]


VERITAS is designed to produce global, high-resolution topography and imaging of Venus' surface and produce the first maps of deformation and global surface composition, thermal emissivity, and gravity fields. Onboard the spacecraft will be two scientific instruments, the Venus Emissivity Mapper (VEM) and Venus Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (VISAR).[13][17][16][22]

  • VISAR (Venus Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) is designed to generate global data sets for topography (250 m horizontal by 5 m vertical accuracy) and SAR imaging at 30 m resolution with targeted resolution at 15 m. It will create the first planetary active surface deformation map (1.5 cm vertical).[15][24]

In addition to these two instruments, the spacecraft will also carry the Deep Space Atomic Clock-2 as a secondary payload. The Deep Space Atomic Clock-2 is the successor to the Deep Space Atomic Clock payload flown on the STP-2 mission in June 2019, and is intended to provide highly precise timing for deep space missions.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Foust, Jeff (8 November 2023). "VERITAS mission warns of risks of launch delay". SpaceNews. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  2. ^
  3. ^ @jeff_foust (29 March 2023). "In a presentation at Space Science Week, Sue Smrekar says the earliest VERITAS can now launch is late 2029, which she argues is preferable over 2031 to deconflict with DAVINCI and EnVision and lower overall cost. Need "modest" bridge funding in FY23 and 24 to do so" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  4. ^ Leone, Dan (7 July 2015). "Small Bodies Dominate NASA's Latest Discovery Competition". SpaceNews. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  5. ^ "NASA Selects Two Missions to Explore the Early Solar System" (Press release). NASA. 4 January 2017. Retrieved 4 January 2017. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ Brown, Katherine (13 February 2020). "NASA Selects 4 Possible Missions to Study Secrets of the Solar System" (Press release). NASA. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ a b "NASA Selects 2 Missions to Study "Lost Habitable" World of Venus" (Press release). NASA. 2 June 2021. Retrieved 6 June 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ Chang, Kenneth (2 June 2021). "New NASA Missions Will Study Venus, a World Overlooked for Decades - One of the spacecraft will probe the hellish planet's clouds, which could potentially help settle the debate over whether they are habitable by floating microbes". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  9. ^ "As Psyche Mission Moves Forward, NASA Responds to Independent Review". NASA. 4 November 2022. Retrieved 4 November 2022.
  10. ^ Foust, Jeff (17 March 2023). "NASA weighing continuing VERITAS versus future Discovery mission". SpaceNews. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  11. ^ Foust, Jeff (3 March 2024). "Final NASA 2024 spending bill defers decision on MSR funding". SpaceNews. Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  12. ^ a b c d Freeman, Anthony; Smrekar, Susan E.; Hensley, Scott; Wallace, Mark; Sotin, Christophe; Darrach, Murray; Xaypraseuth, Peter; Helbert, Joern; Mazarico, Erwan (2016). "VERITAS – a Discovery-class Venus surface geology and geophysics mission" (PDF). NASA. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  13. ^ a b Smrekar, S. E.; Elkins-Tanton, L. T.; Hensley, S.; Campbell, B. A. (2014). VERITAS: A mission to study the highest priority Decadal Survey questions for Venus. American Geophysical Union - Fall Meeting 2014. NASA. Bibcode:2014AGUFM.P21B3912S. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  14. ^ "NASA Selects Investigations for Future Key Planetary Mission". JPL. NASA. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ a b c Paller, M.; Figueroa, H.; Freeman, A. (2015). VISAR: A Next Generation Interferometric Radar for Venus Exploration (PDF). Venus Lab and Technology Workshop. Universities Space Research Association.
  16. ^ a b Hensley, S.; Smrekar, S. E. (2012). "VERITAS: A Mission Concept for the High Resolution Topographic Mapping and Imaging of Venus". American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting. 2012. Bibcode:2012AGUFM.P33C1950H.
  17. ^ a b c Freeman, A.; Smrekar, S. (9 June 2015). VERITAS – a Discovery-class Venus surface geology and geophysics mission (PDF). 11th Low Cost Planetary Missions Conference. Berlin, Germany: DLR.
  18. ^ "VERITAS: Exploring the Deep Truths of Venus". JPL. NASA. 8 July 2020. Retrieved 6 June 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  19. ^ Andrews-Hanna, J. C.; Smrekar, S.; Mazarico, E. (2016). Venus Gravity Gradiometry: Plateaus, Chasmata, Coronae, and the Need for a Better Global Dataset (PDF). 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.
  20. ^ Mazarico, E.; Iess, L.; Breuer, D. (2019). P34A-02 - Exploring the Interior of Venus with the VERITAS Gravity Science Investigation (Invited). American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2019.
  21. ^ Cascioli, G.; Hensley, S.; Marchi, F. De; Breuer, D.; Durante, D.; Racioppa, P.; Iess, L.; Mazarico, E.; Smrekar, S. E. (2 November 2021). "The Determination of the Rotational State and Interior Structure of Venus with VERITAS". The Planetary Science Journal. 2 (6): 220. Bibcode:2021PSJ.....2..220C. doi:10.3847/PSJ/ac26c0. hdl:11573/1582969. ISSN 2632-3338. S2CID 234938383.
  22. ^ Smrekar, S. E.; Hensley, S.; Dyar, M. D.; Helbert, J.; Andrews-Hanna, J. (2020). VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy): A Proposed Discovery Mission (PDF). 51st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.
  23. ^ Helbert, J. (19 September 2013). Observing the surface of Venus after VIRTIS on VEX: new concepts and laboratory work. Infrared Remote Sensing and Instrumentation XXI. San Diego, U.S. doi:10.1117/12.2025582.
  24. ^ a b Widemann, Thomas; Smrekar, Suzanne E.; Garvin, James B.; Straume-Lindner, Anne Grete; Ocampo, Adriana C.; Schulte, Mitchell D.; Voirin, Thomas; Hensley, Scott; Dyar, M. Darby; Whitten, Jennifer L.; Nunes, Daniel C.; Getty, Stephanie A.; Arney, Giada N.; Johnson, Natasha M.; Kohler, Erika (3 October 2023). "Venus Evolution Through Time: Key Science Questions, Selected Mission Concepts and Future Investigations". Space Science Reviews. 219 (7): 56. Bibcode:2023SSRv..219...56W. doi:10.1007/s11214-023-00992-w. hdl:20.500.11850/637406. ISSN 1572-9672.
  25. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (2 June 2021). "NASA will launch 2 new missions to Venus by 2030 to return to Earth's hellish twin". SPACE.com. Retrieved 19 July 2021.