There may be yet another future use for SpaceX’s huge Mars-colonization rocket.
That rocket, called the BFR, could launch a probe toward ‘Oumuamua, the interstellar asteroid that zoomed past Earth last month, a new study suggests.
The 1,300-foot-long (400 meters) ‘Oumuamua is currently speeding away from us at about 58,160 mph (93,600 km/h, or 26 km/s). That’s far faster than any spacecraft has ever traveled upon escaping Earth
Such a mission would really round out the reusable BFR’s portfolio. SpaceX already envisions using the giant rocket—along with its paired spaceship—for all manner of tasks, including launching satellites, carrying people on superfast point-to-point journeys around the globe and cleaning up space junk.
But the BFR is not the only option for an ‘Oumuamua mission, the study authors wrote. Tiny, laser-propelled sail craft, like the ones the $100 million Breakthrough Starshot project aims to launch to other star systems, could do the job as well. (But a 2025 launch date for a sail-craft swarm is unrealistic; the Starshot team has estimated the probes may be ready for prime time in 20 years or so if everything goes well.)
The new study was conducted by researchers with Project Lyra, which aims to assess the feasibility of a mission to rendezvous with or fly by ‘Oumuamua. You can read the short version of the study on Centauri Dreams or the more detailed one on the online preprint site arXiv.org.
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