A tiny satellite with a solar sail could be built rapidly to catch interstellar ...

A tiny satellite with a solar sail could be built rapidly to catch interstellar ...
A tiny satellite with a solar sail could be built rapidly to catch interstellar ...

Experts have tried to figure out what 'Oumuamua - the mysterious object that flew into our solar system from outside of it - is, since it was discovered in 2017. 

And now a new study suggests a tiny satellite equipped with solar sails could be built in short order to catch and observe other objects just like that.

The research notes that a combination of a cube satellite and a lightsail - both technologies that have already been used for space exploration - could easily rendezvous with a future interstellar object (ISO).

'Current technology work suggests such a mission could fly and reach an ISO moving through the solar system within this decade,' the researchers wrote in the study's abstract.

A new study suggests a tiny satellite could be built in short order to catch and study other objects like 'Oumuamua

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A new study suggests a tiny satellite could be built in short order to catch and study other objects like 'Oumuamua

A combination of a cube satellite and a lightsail - both technologies that have already been used for space exploration - could easily rendezvous with a future interstellar object

A combination of a cube satellite and a lightsail - both technologies that have already been used for space exploration - could easily rendezvous with a future interstellar object 

The study suggests that the light-sail powered cube satellite could be sent into space ahead of time, essentially 'parked' near the sun until the orbit of the ISO is determined

The study suggests that the light-sail powered cube satellite could be sent into space ahead of time, essentially 'parked' near the sun until the orbit of the ISO is determined

Once it's found, the trajectory of the sail could be targeted to the perihelion - the point in the orbit at which it's closes to the sun - to figure out the right velocity to intercept the ISO

Once it's found, the trajectory of the sail could be targeted to the perihelion - the point in the orbit at which it's closes to the sun - to figure out the right velocity to intercept the ISO

Given the close proximity to the sun, the solar sail would need to be able to manage heat. If it were aluminum coated with Kapton, it could withstand the heat from the sun due to the high melting point of aluminum (approximately 930 Kelvin) if it were within 0.15 AU of the sun

Given the close proximity to the sun, the solar sail would need to be able to manage heat. If it were aluminum coated with Kapton, it could withstand the heat from the sun due to the high melting point of aluminum (approximately 930 Kelvin) if it were within 0.15 AU of the sun

The researchers believe this kind of mission could happen 'within the current decade'

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The researchers believe this kind of mission could happen 'within the current decade'

'Such a mission might enable the first encounter with an ISO to allow for imaging and spectroscopy, measurements of size and mass, potentially giving a unique information about the object's origin and composition.'

The researchers believe this kind of mission could happen 'within the current decade.' 

So far, only two ISOs have been discovered - 'Oumuamua and Comet 2I/Borisov, but researchers in Brazil believe a fireball that flew over the country in May could have been the third.  

The study suggests that the light-sail powered cube satellite could be sent into space ahead of time, essentially 'parked' near the sun until the orbit of the ISO is determined.

Once it's found, the trajectory of the sail could be targeted to the perihelion - the point in the orbit at which it's closes to the sun - to figure out the right velocity to intercept the ISO.

It would happen in four phases: 'Earth to perihelion, ISO orbit alignment, around the Sun to solar system escape velocity, approach and intercept with the ISO.'

The sail craft would have an escape velocity of more than six astronomical units (AU) per year, or roughly 558 million miles. 

'This would permit rapid response to a new ISO discovery and an intercept within 10 AU from the sun,'

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