Interstellar nanosat project for affordably incrementally proving out technology for interstellar and precursor missions

Project Tin Tin is a mission profile and spacecraft design feasibility program which aims to establish the science, propulsion, communications, power and materials which will be used to build interstellar precursor missions using cubesats. The mission objectives are (a) to establish a program of utilizing space systems miniaturization technologies, (b) to create a template mission and spacecraft package for space -proofing interstellar systems and (c) to launch the first ever interstellar spacecraft to Alpha Centauri. In this paper and presentation we establish that an interstellar journey to our nearest star is feasible within 25,000 years using current technology, cutting Voyager’s best time to a nearest star by a factor of 1/3, with reasonable room for improvements.

They will being launching cubesat systems in 2015.

The Isp being of the order 3500-4500s is clearly within the reach of current technology, while significantly higher specific impulses have been reported of the order of 10,000 -30,000 s in some laboratory case studies supported by engineering data. At Isp ~15,000 s the trip to Alpha Centauri can be halved to 12,500 years compared to our case study above. With these figures the engine’s jet power which tends to ~50W,the specific power of the power source would have to increase by a factor of 7 to about ~50 W/kg.

Alpha Centauri is about 270,000 AU away. A 12,500 year trip time to that distance would mean about 46 years to 1000 AU (Oort comet cloud) or 23 years to 500 AU (gravitational lensing).

100,000 ISP ion drive is in development in Austria. This could be about 4,000 years to Alpha Centauri or 8 years to 500 AU. There would also need to be a high density power source.

FOTEC Indium Ultra-FEEP Thruster

The Ultra-FEEP thruster, under development by FOTEC in Austria, is a compact sized thruster capable of very high specific impulses (Isp) ranging from 20,000-100,000 s depending on the applied emitter voltage.

The core of the Indium FEEP thruster consists of a Liquid Metal Ion Source (LMIS) which has been used for active spacecraft potential control in several scientific missions, cumulating more than 15,000 hours of space operation. It consists of a sharp needle protruding out of a propellant reservoir tank. This reservoir is heated to above 156.6 °C to melt the Indium. If a sufficiently high electric field is applied between the needle and an extractor electrode, a so called Taylor cone is formed and ions are directly pulled out of the liquid metal surface at the tip of the needle

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