Near-Term Interstellar Sailing

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G. L. Matloff; T. S. Taylor; T. C. Powell; T. Moton; D. Robinson (2006), JBIS, 59, 59-62

Refcode: 2006.59.59
Keywords: Heliopause probe, solar sail, gravity assists, interstellar travel

Techniques are investigated that allow the possibility of near-ecliptic exploration beyond the Sun's heliopause (200 AU) using contemporary solar-sail spacecraft (with areal mass thickness about 0.0082 kg/m2). Maximum mission duration to the heliopause was defined as one human working lifetime; missions to the Sun's gravity focus at 550 AU from the sun must take less time than one human lifetime. Options include unfurling the sail at the 0.2-AU perihelion of a parabolic solar orbit, unfurling the sail at the 0.2-AU perihelion of a 2.5-AU aphelion elliptical solar orbit, and performing a grazing gravity-assist flyby of Jupiter. Although these techniques are capable of performing the defined mission, higher-technology sails are faster.

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