Technologies to Enable Near-Term Interstellar Precursor Missions - Is 400 AU Accessible

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D.G. Fearn (2008), JBIS, 61, 279-283

Refcode: 2008.61.279
Keywords: Interstellar precursor missions, Ion propulsion, Dual-stage ion thruster, High specific impulse, Nuclear fission power, High velocity increment

In this paper it is shown that the combination of a nuclear fission reactor, an efficient power conversion system, and a dual- stage gridded ion thruster can provide a velocity increment and specific impulse of interest to interstellar precursor missions. Assuming a total mission duration of about 30 years and a launch into low Earth orbit on a single Ariane-5 class vehicle, a simple analysis indicates that distances from the sun exceeding 400 AU are achievable.

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