Titan as imaged by Cassini spacecraft.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

 

Opening up Titan – a moon of Saturn – to robotic exploration is the thrust behind a proposal from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

An APL team is proposing an instrumented, radioisotope-powered dual-quadcopter to explore Titan, one of a number of “ocean worlds” in our solar system that hold the ingredients for life.

Called Dragonfly, it is a NASA New Frontiers-class mission concept that APL is proposing.

Titan is known to be covered with rich organic material, which is undergoing chemical processes that might be similar to those on early Earth, before life developed.

Dragonfly dual-quadcopter, shown here in an artist’s rendering, could make multiple flights to explore diverse locations as it characterizes the habitability of Titan’s environment.
Credit: APL/Mike Carroll

Drone revolution

According to APL, while the idea of exploring Titan by rotorcraft is not new, technological developments in the last two decades — the “drone revolution” –have made such a mission more feasible.

Later this fall, NASA is expected to select a few of the New Frontiers mission proposals for further study.

Only one will be chosen for flight as the fourth mission in the planetary exploration program; the APL-led New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt was the first New Frontiers mission ever selected.

Credit: APL/Mike Carroll

Final mission selection is expected in mid-2019.

Resources

For more information on Dragonfly, go to this informative website at:

http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/

Also, here’s a new video featuring APL’s Peter Bedini, program manager for Dragonfly, and he details the proposal’s engineering and science. Go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk1zVxwq7O4

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