Tag Archives: Oumuamua

A mission to interstellar object Oumuamua?

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.