Project Lyra: Sending a Spacecraft to 1I/'Oumuamua (former A/2017 U1), the Interstellar Asteroid.
The first definitely interstellar object 1I/'Oumuamua (previously A/2017 U1) observed in our solar system provides the opportunity to directly study material from other star systems. 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.
Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1711.03155
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