Statite

I follow Centauri Dreams closely, it is a very good source on fascinating articles about what might be called the near universe and our ability to explore it. Dealing with the outer solar system and beyond, near future realistic interstellar exploration in all its technical gore.

A recent article (A Statite ‘Slingshot’ for Catching Interstellar Objects by PAUL GILSTER on JANUARY 5, 2021) dealt with how to intercept/flyby interstellar objects (ISO) like ‘Oumuamua’ the icicleoid. This is very much in line with Arthur C. Clark’s classic (and my near all time favorite Science Fiction) Rendezvous with Rama, about the passage of a vast interstellar space ship through Sol system and a desperate dangerous mission to intercept and explore.

With current technology this appears impossible, you’d have to plan and launch a mission with a Falcon Heavy class craft in a few months to have any kind of chance. But there is a near term possible technology that makes it almost easy. The Statite is a ‘satellite’ that uses a solar sail to ‘hover’ instead of kinetic energy to orbit. Essentially this is storing energy and either the main vehicle or a cube sat sized sub satellite can be dropped straight down the gravity well to gain the velocity required to get the flyby in time. This is REALLY COOL stuff….

From the article, A Statite ‘Slingshot’ for Catching Interstellar Objects.

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