Project Voyager – A Map to Navigate our Dynamic Universe

This is an excerpt taken from a recent article by Zachary Fejes on Discovery Space News. The full article on Discovery can be found here.

 

“Indulge me, for a moment, in a brief thought experiment.

You have just become the pilot of a modern spacecraft, let’s call it the USS Lucky, docked with the International Space Station. Your mission: fly to Jupiter and check out its moons. Congratulations on the job.

You start by checking out your craft. It’s got a single rocket booster in the back with enough fuel for one really big burn, or perhaps a number of small ones. It can turn in any direction without too much trouble.

You step inside your capsule, and notice your first problem. There is definitely not enough fuel to push straight to Jupiter from Earth. That’s troublesome! But clearly the scientists and engineers back at home put in enough fuel for you to make the trip – after all, the mission planners at the ESA managed to get Rosetta to a distant comet – so you’ll just have to figure out the best way to go. You remember reading about doing a ‘gravitational slingshot’ somewhere, but that may have just been on Star Trek. How do you most efficiently use the resources you have? How can you be sure to get close to Jupiter, when it is so far away? Most importantly, how do you make sure that you don’t end up adrift in space?

 

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It looks like you could use a map. This is where Project Voyager comes in.

Project Voyager, a new project with Icarus Interstellar, surrounds the development of an interplanetary and interstellar mission planning tool. This is being built as a next generation tool for space agencies, academic institutions, and space enthusiasts the world over.

Voyager is in essence a map which will allow users to plan missions to other planets, asteroids, comets, and even other star systems. Mission planning will be beautifully intuitive, taking cues from modern video game design. Mission simulation will be at least as detailed and accurate as the best software on the market, and we aim to make it even better.

The software will have two major components: mission planning, and mission simulation. Mission planning is done in real time, as the map continuously updates a rough approximation of your trajectory based on the maneuvers you lay out. Mission Simulation takes this approximation, calculates a more accurate path, and overlays it on the map. By seeing the difference, it becomes much simpler to correct trajectories and iterate through mission designs.

So let’s jump back to our thought experiment, and break down the factors that Voyager can help us resolve…”

Please head to Discovery News for the full article here: Project Voyager: A Map to Navigate our Dynamic Universe