This age-old concept has earned this attention mainly due to the fact that after a long time, rockets are being prepared that can give the interstellar spacecraft the necessary initial speed, and of course NASA’s SLS and SpaceX’s Starship ship carrier. The closest to this is SLS, which should start for the first time this year.
It is not so much the carrying capacity of the rocket, but rather the use of its power to make the probe to gain as much speed as possible at the beginning of its flight. However, even though the necessary missiles are basically here (ie one of them), it could still be considered that the launch will take place at the earliest in the 1930s, and then the primary part of the mission would last about half a century. Then it would depend mainly on how long the probe lasts to work. Here, however, the pair of Voyager probes gives us great hope, but the first one was launched in September 1977, so it has been in space for 44 years and is still communicating, even though it is not in its 100% state for a long time.
The Interstellar Probe would be a matter for several generations of scientists, who also want Kirby Runyon to start with. In the interview, he revealed the main goal of the mission, which, of course, is not to achieve an alien space system, which would certainly not be enough with today’s technology for 50 years. Rather, it is a study of our entire system from an external perspective and an understanding of how the Sun affects interstellar space far beyond the heliopause.
The main goal is to get well beyond the limit of 120 to 130 AU (AU – Earth-Sun distance), where interstellar space roughly begins (but also depends on the direction with respect to the Sun’s motion and the resulting shape of the heliosphere). By the way, both Voyagers today are moving at a distance of over 150 AU, or about 21 light hours. That is, they will “cut in” the first light day, and if they were on their way to Proxima Centauri, they would have just over 1530 left.
The Interstellar Probe is expected to reach a distance of at least 350 AU as part of the primary mission, and up to around 1000 AU would be ideal. It would also be the first probe that would not have the primary task of visiting the planets of the solar system, which means that it would be specialized mainly from the point of view of heliophysics and astrophysics. This does not mean, however, that she could not look at any objects in our system along the way, after all, they could also be used in gravitational maneuvers to accelerate it, although Runyon talks more about visiting one of the many dwarf planets the probe can look at. with their cameras and spectrometers.
The advantage of the whole mission, however, is that basically no breakthrough technology is needed, or perhaps one that does not yet exist. A Voyager-style probe will be built, which will be created with regard to long-term endurance, and then it is primarily a matter of gaining the highest possible escape speed in the right direction. The SLS rocket serves as a basic measure here, thanks to which the probe could exceed 7 to 8 AU per year (Voyager 1 flies at a speed of 3.6 AU per year). And Runyon wouldn’t even want the spacecraft to fly much faster anymore, because it also needed a chance to keep a close eye on its surroundings. Even thanks to SLS, it would reach interstellar space in 15 years.
In any case, Interstellar Probe is still just an idea or intention that will hopefully prevail sometime.
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Source: Svět hardware by www.svethardware.cz.
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