NASA’s Interstellar Probe will be the first spacecraft designed to explore the nearby interstellar medium and its interaction with our solar system. As envisioned by NASA’s Interstellar Probe Science and Technology Definition Team, the spacecraft will be propelled by a solar sail to reach >200 AU in 15 years. Interstellar Probe will investigate how the Sun interacts with its environment and will directly measure the properties and composition of the dust, neutrals and plasma of the local interstellar material which surrounds the solar system. In the mission concept developed in the spring of 1999, a 400-m diameter solar sail accelerates the spacecraft to ∼15 AU/year, roughly 5 times the speed of Voyager 1&2. The sail is used to first bring the spacecraft to ∼0.25 AU to increase the radiation pressure before heading out in the interstellar upwind direction. After jettisoning the sail at ∼5 AU, the spacecraft coasts to 200–400 AU, exploring the Kuiper Belt, the boundaries of the heliosphere, and the nearby interstellar medium.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.