Project Icarus: Preliminary Thoughts on the Selection of Probes and Instruments for an Icarus-style Interstellar Mission

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I. A. Crawford (2016), JBIS, 69, pp.4-10

Refcode: 2016.69.4
Keywords: Interstellar travel, exoplanets, interstellar medium, stellar properties, planetary science, astrobiology

In this paper we outline the range of probes and scientific instruments that will be required for an Icarus-style interstellar mission to fulfill its scientific objectives of exploring a nearby star, its attendant planetary system, and the intervening interstellar medium. Based on this preliminary analysis, we estimate that the minimum total Icarus scientific payload mass will be in the region of 100 tonnes. Of this, approximately 10 tonnes would be allocated for cruise-phase science instruments (not all of which would necessarily need to be decelerated at the target system), and about 35 tonnes would be contributed by the intra-system science payload itself (i.e. the dry mass of the stellar and planetary probes and their instruments). The remaining ~55 tonnes is allocated for the sub-probe intra-system propulsion requirements (crudely estimated from current Solar System missions; detailed modelling of sub-probe propulsion systems will be needed to refine this figure). However, the overall mass contributed by the science payload to the total that must be decelerated from the interstellar cruise velocity will be significantly more than 100 tonnes, as allowance must be made for the payload structural and infrastructural elements required to support, deploy, and communicate with the science probes and instruments. Based on the earlier Daedalus study, we estimate another factor of two to allow for these components. Pending the outcome of more detailed studies, it therefore appears that an overall science-related payload mass of ~200 tonnes will be required. This paper is a submission of the Project Icarus Study Group.

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