Guide Fission-Powered Interstellar Precursor Mission [short article]

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He discussed the idea with other members of the Society, and Project Daedalus was born. Project Daedalus took just over 5 years - the project began on January 10th, and the final reports were published May 15th, Approximately , person hours were invested into the project by 13 core designers and numerous consultants. The heart of Daedalus was the fusion pulse propulsion engine, in which small pellets of fusion fuel would be injected at high velocity into a reaction chamber and ignited by high-energy electron beams.

Conceptually this is not vastly different from a conventional internal combustion engine, in which small droplets of gasoline are injected into a combustion chamber and ignited. The resulting fusion reaction products in the Daedalus reaction chamber would be channeled axially rearward from the main vehicle by a number of field coils acting as a magnetic nozzle. This ejecta would be responsible for an overall momentum transfer to the vehicle - much like the exhaust from a rocket engine propels a space vehicle forwards - mediated by magnetic fields interacting with the reaction chamber.

Daedalus was to be a two stage spacecraft, with stage one carrying 46, tonnes of fuel and stage two carrying tonnes. After a total boost phase of nearly four years, it would be traveling at its top speed of Daedalus was to be an unmanned fly-by probe, and so would only stay in the target solar system for a relatively short period of time about two days to cross the equivalent of the solar system , during which it would gather important scientific data from the target solar system.

One of the notable features of the Daedalus design was its use of Helium-3 in the fuel pellets. Helium-3 is one of the most difficult of the fusion fuels to ignite, requiring a higher ignition temperature when compared to other fusion fuels. However, its energy release is among the highest of the various fusion fuels, and thus leads to the greatest thrust. Helium-3 is incredibly rare on Earth; however, there is strong evidence for concentrations of between 0.

Additionally, vast quantities of He3 are known to exist in the atmosphere of the gas giants. The Daedalus mission involved a plan to mine the atmosphere of Jupiter. This requirement in itself indicates the need for a vast solar system-wide civilization with abundant capabilities and a massive space-based infrastructure, and so makes the challenge of building a 'Daedalus Class' spacecraft great.

A Fission-Powered Interstellar Precursor Mission

Despite these difficulties, what is particularly enticing about the Daedalus design is that it is within the realms of credible science, since no new physics is required. This in itself does not imply that the task of building Daedalus would be easy, as the engineering and economical costs are quite staggering, but it is certainly encouraging that this design could be built, given sufficient ambition.

Project Icarus , which began on September 30th, , was inspired by Daedalus, and is a 21st century attempt to re-examine the problem of interstellar propulsion with the benefit of over thirty years of scientific progress and understanding since the original project. Broadly stated, the purpose of Project Icarus is as follows:. To design a credible interstellar probe that is a concept design for a potential mission in the coming centuries.

To allow a direct technology comparison with Daedalus and provide an assessment of the maturity of fusion-based space propulsion for future precursor missions. To generate greater interest in the real term prospects for interstellar precursor missions that are based on credible science.

The twin Van Allen Probes spacecraft were launched into Earth orbits on August 30, , to provide understanding of how populations of relativistic and penetrating ions in space form and change in response to variable inputs of energy. The probes confirmed the existence of a third radiation belt as a predictable consequence of the protection from losses that the plasmasphere provides to a part of the outer radiation belt because the wave environments are so different inside.

The probes showed that particle energization is due to a source of nonadiabatic energization within the interior of the radiation belts, as opposed to adiabatic energization from transport-induced compression, and that global acceleration of particles by drift resonance with ultra-low frequency is ubiquitous.

The goal of the mission was to conduct stereoscopic observations of the Sun. One spacecraft remains in operation. COR2 is, in essence, the blueprint for operational coronagraphs of the future e. Generally, instruments evolve from one project to the next due to a combination of different requirements, improved technology, and new ideas. In addition, many spare pieces of previous instruments parts of flight spares, parts of engineering units , much flight software, and a great deal of ground support equipment were used to construct and improve STEREO instruments.

STEREO instruments also inherited their designs from previous missions, improved upon them, and then.

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The mission consists of four spacecraft flying in formation. The goal of the mission is to gather information about the microphysics of magnetic reconnection, energetic particle acceleration, and turbulence. The MMS mission is still relatively new.

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Its scientific productivity has not been fully realized. MMS is the most ambitious space plasma physics mission ever, and employed a large fraction of the heliophysics research and engineering communities both within and outside GSFC. There is substantially reduced risk for future formation-flying missions owing to the experience gained with MMS.

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This experience feeds into future missions being proposed by Goddard and others working with Goddard. All instruments benefited greatly from experience with prior versions. The Hot Plasma Composition Analyzer instruments pioneered a new radio frequency filtering technique, and the Fast Plasma Investigation instrument pioneered in the areas of multiplicity of sensors, fast-stepping high-voltage power supplies, and flexible data compression, among others.

The balance of those instruments was based on prior versions and experience. Still in its primary mission, MMS has allowed for conclusive fundamental tests of magnetic reconnection, a long-studied but not well understood aspect of collisionless plasma physics in a magnetized plasma. The MMS mission may be indicative of future heliophysics missions that will consist of multiple spacecraft flying in formation.

It may provide numerous lessons learned for the development of future missions. Large strategic missions are essential to maintaining the global leadership of the United States in space exploration and in science because only the United States has the budget, technology, and trained personnel in multiple scientific fields to conduct missions that attract a range of international partners. It considers the role and scientific productivity of such missions in advancing science, technology and the long-term health of the field, and provides guidance that NASA can use to help set the priority of larger missions within a properly balanced program containing a range of mission classes.

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Visit NAP. Looking for other ways to read this? No thanks. Scientific Productivity There are 88 news articles and press releases as well as 8 special sessions at the American Geophysical Union that featured AIM science. Page 90 Share Cite.


Contributions to Development and Demonstration of Technology Applicable to Future Missions Technology developed to mitigate AIM onboard S-band receiver failure early in the mission, including the development of autonomous operations and use of Morse code to command the spacecraft through the TDRSS, has the potential for salvaging future missions with similar problems. Page 91 Share Cite. Technology developed for IRIS feeds forward in many different ways to reduce risk and cost for future missions, including the following: Low-cost satellite bus with very stable three-axis solar pointing; Advanced Camera for Surveys ACS control software; Solc filter for broadband UV imaging; Novel primary mirror heat dump, avoiding thermal problems of traditional solar telescopes; Combined image-stabilizing and scanning system with no additional mirrors; and Spacecraft including X-band transmitter and precision magnetometer.

Scientific Productivity This mission was scientifically productive, enabling the construction of a powerful observatory at the cost of a small Explorer SMEX :. Page 92 Share Cite. Flight spare camera electronics came from SDO. Mechanisms front door, filter wheels, shutters, wedge motors rely on design, qualification, and life tests from Hinode, SDO, and the Solar Ultraviolet Imager.

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Flight spare instrument computer came from SDO. SDO electrical, electronic, and electromechanical parts and the majority of instrument control electronics and thermal control designs came from Hinode and SDO. Data compression firmware and flight software were reused from SDO. Contributions to Development and Demonstration of Technology Applicable to Future Missions Van Allen Probes advanced our ability to design for high-radiation environments, in terms of analysis and modeling, materials testing, and circuit design.