Remote sensing of venusian seismic activity with a small spacecraft, the VAMOS mission concept

Alan DIdion, Attila Komjathy, Brian Sutin, Barry Nakazono, Ashley Karp, Mark Wallace, Gregory Lantoine, Siddharth Krishnamoorthy, Mayer Rud, James Cutts, Philippe Lognonné, Balthasar Kenda, Mélanie Drilleau, Jonathan Makela, Matthew Grawe, Jörn Helbert

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The Venusian atmosphere creates inhospitable temperature and pressure conditions for the surface of Venus, Earth's twin planet, making in-situ measurements of any appreciable length difficult, expensive, and risky to obtain. Yet, because of the apparent youthfulness of Venus' surface features, long-duration seismic observations are in high demand in order to determine and understand the dynamic processes taking place in lieu of plate tectonics. The Venus Airglow Measurements and Orbiter for Seismicity (VAMOS) mission concept would make use of the dense Venusian atmosphere as a medium to conduct seismic vibrations from the surface to the ionosphere. Here, the resulting atmospheric gravity waves and acoustic waves can be observed in the form of perturbations in airglow emissions, the basic principles for which have been demonstrated at Earth following a tsunami and at Venus with the European Venus Express's Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) instrument. In addition, these observations would enable VAMOS to determine the crustal structure and ionospheric variability of Venus without approaching the surface or atmosphere themselves. Equipped with an instrument of modest size and mass, the baseline VAMOS spacecraft is designed to fit within a SmallSat form factor and travel to Venus predominantly under its own power. VAMOS would enter into an orbit uniquely suited for the long-duration, full-disk staring observations required for seismic readings. VAMOS' journey would be enabled by modern solar electric propulsion technology and SmallSat avionics, which allow the spacecraft to reach Venus and autonomously filter observation data on board to detect Venus-quake events. Currently, trade studies are being conducted to determine mission architecture robustness to launch and rideshare opportunities. Key spacecraft challenges for VAMOS, just as with many SmallSat-based mission concepts, include thermal and power management, onboard processing capabilities, telecommunications throughput, and propulsion technology. The VAMOS mission concept is being studied at JPL as part of the NASA Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program, which will not only produce a viable and exciting mission concept for a Venus SmallSat, but will have the opportunity to examine many issues facing the development of SmallSats for planetary exploration. These include SmallSat solar electric propulsion, autonomy, telecommunications, and resource management that can be applied to various inner solar system mission architectures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2018 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2018
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781538620144
StatePublished - Jun 25 2018
Event2018 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2018 - Big Sky, United States
Duration: Mar 3 2018Mar 10 2018

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Other2018 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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