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Solar System Exploration
Group photo of people standing in front of a building in June 2006.

IPPW-4, the Fourth International Planetary Probe Workshop, was devoted to robotic exploration of planets with atmospheres through the use of entry probes, aerial platforms and the technologies of aeroassist. The workshop brought together planetary scientists, engineers and technologists with an interest in entry descent and flight in planetary and satellite atmospheres. This included the major planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - with their bottomless atmospheric oceans and Mars, Venus and Saturn's moon Titan which have solid surfaces accessible to scientific investigation.

IPPW 4 2006 Pasadena, CA
Additional Resources
Event Poster (PDF, 5.53 MB)
Abstracts (PDF, 30.08 MB)
Short Course Agenda: Instruments for Planetary Probes and Aerial Platforms (PDF, 65 KB)


Session 1: Overview

Chairs: Melissa McGrath, NASA and Jean-Pierre Lebreton, ESA

This session provides an overview of the current vision and activities of NASA and ESA, brought by representatives of both agencies, regarding the opportunities for and challenges of future atmospheric entry probe studies of the solar system, within the context of the present political and budget climates, and the current solar system exploration goals of the agencies.

Session 2: Scientific Results from Probe Missions

Chairs: R. Lorenz, U. Arizona, USA; E. Chassefiere, Service d'Aeronomie, Univ. and P & M Curie, France

This session features papers describing flight results from probe missions and their scientific implications (e.g. what descent dynamic, measured by on-board sensors and radio tracking, tell us about atmospheric structure and winds.) The engineering performance of science instrumentation and lessons learned are also covered.

Session 3: In Situ Measurements of Earth's Atmosphere

Chairs: Peter Jenniskens, SETI, USA; Maartin Roos-Serote, U. Lisbon, Portugal and Georges Durry, Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, France

This session aims to educate the planetary science and engineering community with the experience of terrestrial investigations of the entry of space probes, the in-situ exploration of the atmosphere, and the remote sensing of atmospheric phenomena in our own atmosphere that can be relevant to future planetary missions. This includes meteors, aurora, sporadic ionization layers, metal atom debris layers, and in-situ sampling of the atmosphere by stratospheric balloons and sounding rockets.

Session 4: Mission Concepts and Studies

Chairs: Sushil Atreya, U. Michigan, USA, T. Spilker, JPL, USA and G. Schwehm, ESA

All missions begin as studies, both to focus scientific attention on the potential capabilities of a mission, and to identify needed technology developments. In this session concepts for future probe missions are discussed, including Mars, Titan, Venus, and the outer planets.

Session 5: Sensors, Instruments, and Sample Acquisition Systems

Chairs: P. Mahaffy, GSFC, USA; Brian Jamieson, GSFC, USA; Erik Laan, Dutch Space, Netherlands and Andrew Ball, Open University, UK

This session solicits reports on new or substantially improved sensors and instruments for measuring atmospheric state parameters, chemical and isotopic composition, dust and aerosols, electric and magnetic fields, and surface and subsurface parameters. Given the limited mass and power resources available for planetary probe and aerial platforms, papers on miniaturized and low power instrumentation that maintains or enhances current performance parameters are especially welcome. In addition, reports of novel instrumentation that would enable new measurements, improve limits of detection, or would otherwise enhance data return are encouraged. Papers that describe methods of resource efficient integration of instrumentation and sampling technologies into probe or aerial platforms (i.e., novel packaging concepts) as well those that describe novel sample acquisition or processing concepts are also encouraged. Both concepts that have attained some development maturity as well as advanced concepts that have not yet been proven are appropriate for this session.

Session 6: Thermal Control and Pressure Vessels

Chairs: Bernie Bienstock, Boeing, USA and Denis Lebleu, Alcatel, France

Planetary entry vehicles are subjected to extremely harsh environments as they enter and subsequently descend through planetary atmospheres. Although extreme environment technologies are improving, accommodation of the required operating conditions for science instruments and probe systems is required. The vast swings in the thermal environment, from the near absolute zero conditions once the probe leaves its carrier spacecraft, to the searing temperatures generated by atmospheric entry, must be minimized. The extreme pressure swings too must be controlled to prevent changing atmospheric conditions from damaging probe units. This session will examine technologies that manage the thermal and pressure environments throughout the probe mission.

Session 7: Electronics, Communication, and Batteries

Chairs: W. Johnson, Auburn University (USA); Jim Arnold, UCSC, USA and Thierry Blancquaert, ESTEC, France

High temperatures, pressures, and the attenuation of communication signals limit the penetration depths of probes in the atmospheres of the gas giants. Venus probes must endure even higher temperatures and pressures. Other extreme environments of interest are those at very low temperatures like Titan. In the past, extensive thermal control was required to maintain electronics, batteries, and instruments in an Earth-like environment for the probes operating at the high and low temperature extremes, adding significantly to the mass and complexity of the system and limiting the operational times. Session VII is dedicated to general papers describing capabilities and prospects of existing emerging electronics, communications and battery technologies or strategies that could extend the capabilities of planetary probes operating in extreme environments.

Session 8: Entry, Descent, and Mobility Systems

Chairs: Ed Martinez, ARC, USA and Wayne Lee, JPL, USA

The purpose of session VIII is to provide an overview of system technologies in key areas of atmospheric entry including thermal protection systems. The session will also include papers devoted to descent technologies such as parachutes and others. Mobility technologies will be presented as applied to Venus or Titan

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