WASHINGTON — The European Space Agency has selected a Venus orbiter as its next medium-class science mission, just a week after NASA announced the section of two Venus missions of its own.
ESA announced June 10 that EnVision will be the agency’s next M-class, or medium-class, science mission. The orbiter will carry a suite of spectrometers, sounders and a radar to study the planet’s interior, surface and atmosphere.
Solar Orbiter will launch no earlier than 2031 on an Ariane 6 rocket. A baseline mission timeline included in a mission assessment study projected a launch during a one-month window that opens in late May 2032, arriving at Venus in August 2033. It would then use the planet’s atmosphere to aerobrake into its final science orbit by early 2035 for a four-year science mission.
EnVision was one of two finalists for the “M5” mission opportunity, along with Transient High-Energy Sky and Early Universe Surveyor (THESUS), an astronomy mission designed to look for transient events, in particularly gamma-ray bursts from the early universe. A third finalist, an infrared space observatory called SPICA that would have flown in cooperation with the Japanese space agency JAXA, was dropped from consideration in October 2020 because ...