Flying to Jupiter in 30 Days at 0.1% of Lightspeed

The Jupiter Observing Velocity Experiment (JOVE) is a solar-powered technology demonstration of rapid flight to outer solar system targets, performing a flyby of the Jovian magnetosphere 30 days after launch. This is achieved using a magnetic drag device to accelerate with the solar wind plasma. This “Wind Rider” propulsion system can potentially also decelerate against the Jovian plasmapause dawn eddy, to enable Jupiter orbital insertion in future missions. The 16U cubesat bus contains an array of scientific instruments to record the plasma parameters from the vicinity of the spacecraft, with principal measurements coming from a SPAN-I ion velocity sensor.

This class of propulsion system enables SmallSat missions to a wide variety of outer solar system targets, opening up a range of previously unreachable science opportunities.

The solar wind goes up to 700 kilometer per second from the north and south end of the sun but 400 kilometers per second out along the plane of the planets in the solar system.

This proof of concept mission in a ridesharing launch could cost as little as $20-40 million.

The main costs and work is to develop deployable superconducting coils. These would be the largest superconducting structures ever deployed in space.

Later missions could be enhanced with Dynamic soaring. Dynamic soaring would be diving in and out of faster and slower solar wind to get to speeds ten to twenty times as fast as the top solar wind speed. This could reach 6000 kilometers per second or about 2% of light speed using solar wind dynamic soaring.

6 thoughts on “Flying to Jupiter in 30 Days at 0.1% of Lightspeed”

  1. They need lighter spacecraft with terapascal tensile modulus graphitic fibers and laminated composites to get even closer to top velocity.
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  2. What about riding the Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) which can have speeds as fast as near 3000 km/s? Even higher velocities can come from the magnetic reconnections in the main solar flare. A little more difficult in the sense of timing and placement to catch these giant waves of particles.

    • CMEs are currently not very predictable, but surely that is a question that already has scientists hard at work on. We can return to the era of ships waiting for the appropriate wind and tides to set sail.

      Science fiction wise, it should be theoretically possible to induce a suitable CME for launching space craft in particular directions at particular times. (Cue bad person who plans to use it as a weapon, plot ensues.)

      Furthermore, a CME already has a strong velocity differential between the ejection itself and the normal solar wind, allowing a path of dynamic soaring along the CME margin as the spacecraft heads away from the sun.

    • Wouldn’t we need a very lucky coronal mass ejection coming right into Earth? Which would be unlucky for every other electronic system in the planet

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