VERITAS (spacecraft)

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Artist's concept of Veritas at Venus
Mission typeReconnaissance
OperatorNASA's JPL
Mission duration2 years (proposed)
Start of mission
Launch date2021 (proposed)
Venus orbiter

VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) is a proposed mission concept by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to map with high resolution the surface of planet Venus. The combination of surface topography and image data would provide knowledge of Venus' tectonic and impact history, the timing and mechanisms of volcanic resurfacing, and the mantle processes responsible for them.

A reformulation of this mission concept, under the name Venus Origins Explorer (VOX), was proposed in 2017 to compete for the next New Frontiers program mission.

Proposal development[edit]

This is an example of computer generated terrain of Venus, based on data from an orbiting radar imaging satellite. A new global data map would allow a comparison between the two to be made.
Size comparison of radar-mapped Venus surface and Earth

VERITAS was one of dozens of proposals submitted in 2015 to potentially become Mission #13 of NASA’s Discovery Program, with Suzanne Smrekar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to serve as the Principal Investigator, and JPL to manage the project. NASA's planned budget for Discovery Mission #13 is US$450 million.

On September 30, 2015 VERITAS was selected as one of five finalists.[1] On January 4, 2017, two competing proposals, Lucy and Psyche, defeated it to be selected as the 13th and 14th Discovery missions, respectively.[2]

A reformulation of this mission concept, under the name Venus Origins Explorer (VOX), was proposed in 2017 to compete for the next New Frontiers program mission.


VERITAS would produce global, high resolution topography and imaging of Venus' surface and produce the first maps of deformation and global surface composition,[3] thermal emissivity, and gravity field.[4] It would also attempt to determine if Venus hosted ancient aqueous environments. Also, current data are highly suggestive of recent and active volcanism and this mission could determine if current volcanism is limited to mantle plume heads or is more widespread.[4]

High resolution imagery would be obtained by using an X band radar configured as a single pass interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR)[5] coupled with a multispectral near-infrared (NIR) emissivity mapping capability. VERITAS would map surface topography with a spatial resolution of 250 m and 5 m vertical accuracy, and generate radar imagery with 30 m spatial resolution.[3]

Goals [5][6]
  1. understand Venus' geologic evolution
  2. determine what geologic processes are currently operating
  3. find evidence for past or present water

Scientific payload[edit]

The primary mission goals, accomplished by seven objectives, require two instruments and a gravity science investigation over a 2-year orbital mission.[6]

  • VEM (Venus Emissivity Mapper) would map surface emissivity using six spectral bands in five atmospheric windows that see through the clouds.[6] It would be provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR)[7]
  • VISAR (Venus Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) would generate a DEM (digital elevation model) with an accuracy of 250 m horizontal by 5 m height.[5]

Gravity science would be carried out using the spacecraft's telecom system. The mission design also would enable the opportunity to send a nanosat probe into the atmosphere of Venus, carrying a mass spectrometer to sample the noble gases and their isotopes.[6] For the NASA AO, this fulfills the option for a technology demonstration option.[8] Called Cupid's arrow it would pack a quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer into nanosat atmospheric "skimmer".[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Small Bodies Dominate NASA's Latest Discovery Competition". Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  2. ^ "NASA Selects Two Missions to Explore the Early Solar System". January 4, 2017. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  3. ^ 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. NASA. Bibcode:2012AGUFM.P33C1950H.
  4. ^ a b Smrekar, S. E.; Elkins-Tanton, L. T; Hensley, S.; Campbell, B. A, 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.
  5. ^ a b c Paller, M.; Figueroa, H.; Freeman, A.; et al. (2015). VISAR: A Next Generation Inteferometric Radar for Venus Exploration (PDF). Venus Lab and Technology Workshop (2015). Universities Space Research Association.
  6. ^ a b c d 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.
  7. ^ 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, USA. doi:10.1117/12.2025582.
  8. ^ a b [1]

External links[edit]