The Case for a New Frontiers-Class Uranus Orbiter: System Science at an Underexplored and Unique World with a Mid-scale Mission

Ian J. Cohen, Chloe Beddingfield, Robert Chancia, Gina DiBraccio, Matthew Hedman, Shannon MacKenzie, Barry Mauk, Kunio M. Sayanagi, Krista M. Soderlund, Elizabeth Turtle, Caitlin Ahrens, Christopher S. Arridge, Shawn M. Brooks, Emma Bunce, Sebastien Charnoz, Athena Coustenis, Robert A. Dillman, Soumyo Dutta, Leigh N. Fletcher, Rebecca HarbisonRavit Helled, Richard Holme, Lauren Jozwiak, Yasumasa Kasaba, Peter Kollmann, Statia Luszcz-Cook, Kathleen Mandt, Olivier Mousis, Alessandro Mura, Go Murakami, Marzia Parisi, Abigail Rymer, Sabine Stanley, Katrin Stephan, Ronald J. Vervack, Michael H. Wong, Peter Wurz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current knowledge of the Uranian system is limited to observations from the flyby of Voyager 2 and limited remote observations. However, Uranus remains a highly compelling scientific target due to the unique properties of many aspects of the planet itself and its system. Future exploration of Uranus must focus on cross-disciplinary science that spans the range of research areas from the planet's interior, atmosphere, and magnetosphere to the its rings and satellites, as well as the interactions between them. Detailed study of Uranus by an orbiter is crucial not only for valuable insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system but also for providing ground truths for the understanding of exoplanets. As such, exploration of Uranus will not only enhance our understanding of the ice giant planets themselves but also extend to planetary dynamics throughout our solar system and beyond. The timeliness of exploring Uranus is great, as the community hopes to return in time to image unseen portions of the satellites and magnetospheric configurations. This urgency motivates evaluation of what science can be achieved with a lower-cost, potentially faster-turnaround mission, such as a New Frontiers-class orbiter mission. This paper outlines the scientific case for and the technological and design considerations that must be addressed by future studies to enable a New Frontiers-class Uranus orbiter with balanced cross-disciplinary science objectives. In particular, studies that trade scientific scope and instrumentation and operational capabilities against simpler and cheaper options must be fundamental to the mission formulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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