A mission to interstellar object Oumuamua?


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

A private company and a volunteer group dedicated to promoting interstellar travel have written a paper [pdf] exploring the possibility of launching a mission to fly past the interstellar object Oumuamua, now speeding out of our solar system.

As they note in the paper’s abstract,

Can such objects be intercepted? The challenge of reaching the object within a reasonable timeframe is formidable due to its high heliocentric hyperbolic excess velocity of about 26 km/s; much faster than any vehicle yet launched. This paper presents a high-level analysis of potential near-term options for such a mission. Launching a spacecraft in a reasonable timeframe of 5-10 years requires a hyperbolic solar system excess velocity between 33 to 76 km/s for mission durations between 30 to 5 years. Different mission durations and their velocity requirements are explored with respect to the launch date, assuming direct impulsive transfer to the intercept trajectory. Several technology options are outlined, ranging from a close solar Oberth Maneuver using chemical propulsion, and the more advanced options of solar and laser sails. To maximize science return decelerating the spacecraft at ’Oumuamua is highly desirable, due to the minimal science return from a hyper-velocity encounter. It is concluded that although reaching the object is challenging, there seem to be viable options based on current and near-term technology.

The paper even considers the use of SLS or SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket.

Share

8 comments

  • LocalFluff

    THIS is what Zuma is about!

  • LocalFluff

    After this whole unintentional debacle with Pluto and planets involving Micheal Brown and Alan Stern and very angry school kids, the IAU is playing it safe. They asked the commander in chief himself what to name this object, as his eternal legacy. He is a branding genius after all:
    – I One Won won won

  • Ted

    I thought you said “Omarosa.” She was kinda far out as I remember? Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  • My brain reads the objects name as ” Yo Mama”.

  • wayne

    Ruff And Reddy Show
    “The Mad Monster Of Muni Mula” (aluminum spelled backwards)
    https://youtu.be/sJReRqnOwn4
    3:37

  • Keith

    Launching a ship to intercept an speeding interstellar object ?
    Sounds a bit like your book, “Pioneer”.

  • Unless such a mission can be done fairly cheaply, or we significantly enhance our technology by developing a mission, I don’t see a lot of value in it. We will very likely find that such objects are old rocks, very much like the old rocks we have in abundance throughout our own system.

  • Rather than starting a mission to this particular exoroid, what I would like to see is a plan for how a future exoroid could be intercepted. Could, for example there be a craft in lunar orbit ready to go and, enemy an exoroid’s trajectory is detected, have the craft depart past the Earth at a time and in a trajectory that will cross paths of the exoroid. Something like that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *