Exploration Projects

The Advanced Astrodynamics Concepts group works on a variety of projects for the study and exploration of the Solar System by both robots and humans. A few select projects are summarized below:

Human Exploration:
The Advanced Astrodynamics Concepts group is one of the world’s leading academic research group working on various aspects of human exploration of space. AAC specializes in interplanetary mission design to human exploration destinations such as the Moon and Mars. AAC also specializes in the design and evaluation of large-scale, end-to-end, human-mission architectures leading to permanent colonization.

AAC works closely with:

  • NASA H.Q., multiple NASA centers, and the NASA Human Mars Study Group.

  • Dr. Buzz Aldrin on various aspects of human Mars exploration including Earth-Mars cycler trajectories. AAC carried out the first end-to-end “Cycling Pathways” architecture leading to colonization at the request of Dr. Buzz Aldrin in 2015.

  • Lockheed Martin on their Mars Base Camp concept.

Oceanus – A Multi-Spacecraft Multi-Planet Mission Concept:
Oceanus was an experimental graduate design course named, “Conceptual Space Mission Design”, and was offered at Purdue University in May 2016 as a two-week intensive team exercise where students performed a rapid conceptual planetary science mission design. Students participated in a series of concurrent design sessions in an active learning environment where the mission design and instrument suite were finalized. Students learned about the interconnectedness of mission elements, performed the necessary trade-offs to stay within the cost cap, and developed all the necessary tools to conduct the mission concept study.

In August 2015 at the NASA Outer Planets Assessment Meeting, Dr. James Green, the Director of the Planetary Science Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, announced the plan to conduct NASA’s Ice Giants Mission Studies. JPL is currently leading the Ice Giant Mission Studies work. In support of NASA’s plan, the students were inspired to conduct an early mission concept study to explore the ice giant planets within the cost cap of NASA’s Flagship missions.

In May 2015, a unique Saturn-Uranus trajectory option was discovered at Purdue University, led by Kyles Hughes, Sarag Saikia, and James Longuski in addition to working with NASA Ames Research Center, which enables exceptional multi-spacecraft and multi-probe mission opportunities. The students in the course used the exclusive trajectory to develop the mission concept. Such a mission opportunity enables delivery of an atmospheric probe into Saturn’s atmosphere for the first time as well as deliver an orbiter and an entry probe to Uranus. The result of the study is OCEANUS: A Multi-Spacecraft Flagship Mission Concept to Explore Uranus and Saturn.

The mission concept study was presented to a panel of scientists and engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, NASA Centers, and Industry. The feedback provided by the panel were very helpful in the preparation of the final report. We thank our colleagues at JPL: Charles Budney, James Cutts, Kim Reh, Young Lee, John Elliott, Anastassios Petropoulos, Nitin Arora, and Jon Sims for valuable insight and support during the study. Finally, we hope the Oceanus mission concept study provides some insight into the design of mission concepts to explore the ice-giant planets.

The final report from the study is linked here.