A Caltech Library Service

Innovative interstellar explorer

McNutt, Ralph L., Jr. and Gold, Robert E. and Krimigis, Tom and Roelof, Edmond C. and Gruntman, Mike and Gloeckler, George and Koehn, Patrick L. and Kurth, William S. and Oleson, Steven R. and Fiehler, Douglas I. and Horanyi, Mihaly and Mewaldt, Richard A. and Leary, James C. and Anderson, Brian J. (2006) Innovative interstellar explorer. In: PHYSICS OF THE INNER HELIOSHEATH: Voyager Observations, Theory, and Future Prospects; 5th Annual IGPP International Astrophysics Conference. AIP Conference Proceedings. No.858. American Institute of Physics , Melville, NY, pp. 341-347. ISBN 978-0-7354-0355-0.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


An interstellar "precursor" mission has been under discussion in the scientific community for at least 30 years. Fundamental scientific questions about the interaction of the Sun with the interstellar medium can only be answered with in situ measurements that such a mission can provide. The Innovative Interstellar Explorer (IIE) and its use of Radioisotope Electric Propulsion (REP) is being studied under a NASA "Vision Mission" grant. Speed is provided by a combination of a high-energy launch, using current launch vehicle technology, a Jupiter gravity assist, and long-term, low-thrust, continuous acceleration provided by an ion thruster running off electricity provided by advanced radioisotope electric generators. A payload of ten instruments with an aggregate mass of ~35 kg and requiring ~30 W has been carefully chosen to address the compelling science questions. The nominal 20-day launch window opens on 22 October 2014 followed by a Jupiter gravity assist on 5 February 2016. The REP system accelerates the spacecraft to a "burnout" speed of 7.8 AU per year at 104 AU on 13 October 2032 (Voyager 1's current speed is ~3.6 AU/yr). The spacecraft will return at least 500 bits per second from at least 200 AU ~30 years after launch. Additional (backup) launch opportunities occur every 13 months to early 2018. In addition to addressing basic heliospheric science, the mission will ensure continued information on the far-heliospheric galactic cosmic ray population after the Voyagers have fallen silent and as the era of human Mars exploration begins.

Item Type:Book Section
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
McNutt, Ralph L., Jr.0000-0002-4722-9166
Roelof, Edmond C.0000-0002-2270-0652
Mewaldt, Richard A.0000-0003-2178-9111
Additional Information:© 2006 American Institute of Physics. This work was supported by NASA Vision Mission grant NNG04GJ60G. We acknowledge contributions of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Team-X. The views expressed herein are not necessarily endorsed by the sponsor.
Group:Space Radiation Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:space vehicles; space research; interstellar matter; solar wind
Series Name:AIP Conference Proceedings
Issue or Number:858
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:MCNaipcp06
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:6296
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:01 Dec 2006
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:19

Repository Staff Only: item control page