Interstellar probe: Breakthrough science enabled by nuclear propulsion

T. H. Zurbuchen, P. Prashant, A. Gallimore, D. Scheeres, N. Murphy, G. Zank, R. Malhotra, H. Funsten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is the purpose of Interstellar Probe (ISP) to follow NASA's exploratory mission to cross the heliospheric boundary regions and, for the first time, enter our extra-solar galactic environment. Interstellar Probe has therefore captured the imagination of the science community and the public for several decades. In 1999, NASA commissioned a science and technology definition team to address the science and technology aspects of ISP. However, a number of scientific issues and technology aspects have changed: Voyager has now observed signatures of the heliosphere's termination shock. We now also have modern three-dimensional simulations of the heliospheric interface regions. In addition, nuclear power has become a feasible alternative for propulsion of Interstellar Probe. We will discuss how nuclear propulsion might affect the instrumentation, mission requirements, and the mission plan, as well as how it may enable new science objectives. We will also discuss the science, payload, ongoing trade studies, and development of this approach for the Interstellar Probe, relying on technology developed for the Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter (JIMO).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-187
Number of pages9
JournalSpace Technology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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