Big science in small packages: Emerging science opportunities with solar sailing smallsats on fast solar system trajectories
Two synergistic technologies have recently advanced to the point of enabling new, affordable possibilities for faster and more frequent access to the deep regions of our solar system: (i) interplanetary small satellites and (ii) solar sailing propulsion. Combining these two technologies could drastically reduce travel times within the solar system while delivering cutting-edge science. Solar sailing propulsion, combined with rideshare and start from Earth orbit, and the use of smallsat architecture components, is the key technology that may allow us to reach high solar system transit velocities at a dramatic reduction in mission costs and lead time. With the currently available sail materials, components, and instruments we can fly practical missions with speeds of up to 7 AU/year – twice that of the current speed record holder - Voyager 1. With the sail materials that are already being developed, smallsat velocities up to 20-25 AU/year will be reachable in 5-7 years. Benefiting from this progress, the “Sundiver” concept is new and exciting; it offers breakthrough capabilities for which the science community has been waiting for decades. We discuss the Sundiver sailcraft, enabling technology, instruments and unique science opportunities offered by small sailcraft placed on fast interplanetary transit trajectories. We present some of science opportunities that may be realized relying on Sundiver capabilities.
Slava G. Turyshev is an astrophysicist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology and a professor at the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Turyshev earned his M.S. in physics (with honors) and a PhD in quantum field theory from the Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia in 1987 and 1990, correspondingly. In 2008, he earned the Doctor of Science degree (Habilitation) in astrophysics from the same university. His primary research areas include gravitational and fundamental physics in space, research in relativistic astrophysics, astronomy, and planetary science. He is an expert in high-precision spacecraft navigation, solar system dynamics, satellite and lunar laser ranging, astrometry, and related technology efforts. Dr. Turyshev served as the NASA Project Scientist on the CNES/ESA Microscope mission (2016-2020); JPL Project Scientist for the Advanced Lunar Laser Ranging Facility at the Table Mountain Observatory, CA (2015-ongoing); Principal Investigator on the investigation of the Pioneer Anomaly (2003-2012). He was the Principal Investigator on the 2020 NIAC Phase III effort on the mission concept studies to use the solar gravitation lens (SGL) for multipixel imaging and spectroscopy of exoplanets. He has published over 220 papers, 2 books. Dr. Turyshev is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.