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DAVINCI+ (Discovery 15)

DAVINCI+ (cruise configuration) [NASA Goddard]

DAVINCI+ (lander) [NASA Goddard]

The DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) mission will measure the composition of Venus’ atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved, as well as determine whether the planet ever had an ocean.

The mission consists of a descent sphere that will plunge through the planet’s thick atmosphere, making precise measurements of noble gases and other elements to understand why Venus’ atmosphere is a runaway hothouse compared the Earth’s.

DAVINCI+ will also return the first high resolution pictures of the unique geological features on Venus known as “tesserae,” which may be comparable to Earth’s continents, suggesting that Venus has plate tectonics.

The spacecraft will have one instrument, a suite of four cameras called VISOR (Venus Imaging System from Orbit for Reconnaissance). One camera will be sensitive to ultraviolet light to track cloud motions in the atmosphere. Additionally, a suite of three cameras sensitive to near-infrared light will be able to identify surface composition at regional scales by analyzing near-infrared heat emission from the surface when the spacecraft is over the night side of Venus. Since rock composition can be influenced by water, these images will give clues to how ancient oceans may have shaped the crust of Venus. The camera suite will provide the first compositional maps of Ishtar Terra, the high latitude “continent” on Venus with a range in height of up to 11 kilometers. Ishtar may be the last manifestation of a kind of plate tectonics on Venus that shut off when the oceans dissipated about one billion years ago.

In addition to the main mission, NASA selected technology demonstrations to fly along on the spacecraft. DAVINCI+ will host the Compact Ultraviolet to Visible Imaging Spectrometer (CUVIS) built by Goddard. CUVIS will make high resolution measurements of ultraviolet light using a new instrument based on freeform optics. These observations will be used to determine the nature of the unknown ultraviolet absorber in Venus’ atmosphere that absorbs up to half the incoming solar energy.

The probe will contain four instruments. Two of them – the Venus Mass Spectrometer (VMS) and the Venus Tunable Laser Spectrometer (VTLS) – will undertake the first complete compositional study of the entire cross-section of Venus’ atmospheric gases, searching for clues as to how, when, and why Venus’ climate may have changed so dramatically. The third instrument, the Venus Atmospheric Structure Investigation (VASI), will measure the pressure, temperature, and winds from about 70 kilometers in altitude to the surface at 10 times higher resolution (or more) than any previous Venus probe. After the probe drops under the thick cloud layer, the Venus Descent Imager (VenDI) instrument will take hundreds of near-infrared images of the Alpha Regio highlands, which the team will use to make maps of topography and composition. These images will show landscapes unique to Venus at the high resolutions typical of landers (near the surface).

DAVINCI+ is planned for launch in May 2026. It will make two Venus fly-bys in December 2026 and September 2027. During the April 2028 fly-by, the lander will be released for it's 1 hour mission. The cruise stage will again arrive at Venus in November 2028, when it will insert itself into orbit for 6 months of orbital operations.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Venus orbiter and lander
Operator: NASA
Power: 2 deployable solar arrays, batteries
Orbit: Heliocentric
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
DAVINCI+ Orbiter (Discovery 15) - 2026 with DAVINCI+ Descent Probe
DAVINCI+ Descent Probe (Discovery 15) - 2026 with DAVINCI+ Orbiter

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