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I am just curious to know if there is any estimation, no matter how rough it could be, about when another human artifact can go farther than Voyager 1 with respect to the Earth; years, decades, any planned mission?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sufficiently confident in the field to be able to offer a useful answer, but how close does your "pass by" have to be? Do you mean "attain a comparable distance in any direction", or "pass within a million miles": in the latter case one could usefully take into account planetary positions since a high-speed probe could gain a lot by appropriate use of slingshots. $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2022 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ In fact, I meant going farther than Voyager 1 with respect to the Earth as I mentioned in the question, but the title is ambiguous and not accurate. I'm sorry, but I'm not a native speaker. $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2022 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? With current state of technology if we wanted how long would it take for newly launched probe to overtake Voyagers? $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Jan 3, 2022 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ @MehdiAbbassi No problem at all, but I just thought it worth highlighting the additional factor since /if/ there were a useful planetary alignment if would obviously produce a useful boost... which in fact would be irrespective of direction. So perhaps the situation which we should all be looking at is not just "how powerful can we make an engine?", but "how powerful can we make an engine in time for the next useful alignment, and how much would we gain if we waited for the next alignment after that?". $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2022 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ A mission that has been studied, although not really "planned", seeks to rendezvous with 'Oumuamua in 2050. I imagine this would exceed Voyager 1's distance from the sun fairly quickly since it's specifically designed to catch up quickly to something already on an interstellar trajectory, but I have not run the numbers. researchgate.net/publication/… $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2022 at 19:00

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Voyager 1 is currently travelling at 17 km/s, or about 3.5 AU per year. Anything that would overtake it would have to be moving faster than this away from the Sun.

There have been proposals to fly probes faster than this - the idea being that if your primary mission is to study the interstellar medium or the heliosphere, you want to be able to get there as quickly as possible.

There are two future missions (one planned, one proposed) that might do this.

Firstly, there are a pair of Chinese "Interstellar Express" probes, with a planned launch date in 2024; the WP summary doesn't give an exact speed, but a back of the envelope calculation based on the dates and distances given there suggests that after the Jupiter encounter, IHP-1 would be moving about 4 AU away from the sun per year, and after the Neptune flyby (exciting!) IHP-2 would be moving about 4.8 AU away from the sun per year.

(The actual velocity would be higher; it would be moving at a tangent rather than directly out of the system. But distance to the sun is what we want.)

Voyager 1 has a substantial head start, of course, so it would take these probes 100-150 years to overtake it.

Secondly, a recently proposed NASA mission, "Interstellar" (detailed proposal), is targeting a very fast trajectory (6-7 au/year) to reach 100 AU after fifteen years and 344 AU after 50. (I think these are solar distances not distance travelled on the tangent, but it's not quite clear.) This would probably overtake Voyager 1 in 20-30 years from launch, which would be in the 2030s - though it is as yet only a proposal.

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Voyager 1 is now 154.95 AU away from Earth. The distance increases by 3.6 AU by each year now.

For simplification, I assume constant speed for the whole distance. If we want to start another space probe to overtake Voyager 1 after decades or centuries, the speed should be substantially higher.

A probe with a speed of 4 AU per year will overtake in 433.3 years. With a speed of 5 AU/year, it will take 153.5 years. If we may double the speed to 7.2 AU/year, it will take 86.7 years.

But doubling the speed would require a very heavy and large rocket. Two times the speed means four times the energy, so the rocket needs to be more than four times as large and heavy.

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    $\begingroup$ ...and developing such a rocket would require a decade. Furthermore, voyager used gravitational slingshots to accelerate, the required plantery constellation won't happen long again. I doubt that we would ever see it again in a museum on the Earth, but possibly only it will happen. Although its radio will likely not work at the time, making it undetectable. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Jan 1, 2022 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ What about SUNrise? The cubesat mission will launch into interstellar space, with half the travel time! $\endgroup$
    – Xenon
    Sep 16, 2022 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @DekoRevinio "The mission uses a space-based array, composed of six small satellites, or CubeSats, flying in supersynchronous geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) within 10 km of each other. " GEO is very different to following Voyager. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Sep 17, 2022 at 0:56

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