Physical Considerations for an Intercept Mission to a 1I/’Oumuamua-like Interstellar ObjectOPEN ACCESS 

Amir Siraj, Abraham Loeb, Amaya Moro-Martin, Mark Elowitz, Abigail White, Wesley Watters, Gary Melnick, Richard Cloete, Jonathan Grindlay, Frank Laukien

accepted for publication in Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation
Draft version November 7, 2022


In this paper, we review some of the extant literature on the study of interstellar objects (ISOs). With the forthcoming Vera C. Rubin Telescope and Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), we find that 0.38 – 84 Oumuamua-like interstellar objects are expected to be detected in the next 10 years, with 95% confidence. The feasibility of a rendezvous trajectory has been demonstrated in previous work. In this paper, we investigate the requirements for a rendezvous mission with the primary objective of producing a resolved image of an interstellar object. We outline the rendezvous distances necessary as a function of resolution elements and object size. We expand upon current population synthesis models to account for the size dependency on the detection rates for reachable interstellar objects. We assess the trade-off between object diameter and occurrence rate, and conclude that objects with the size range between a third of the size and the size of Oumuamua will be optimal targets for an imaging rendezvous. We also discuss expectations for surface properties and spectral features of interstellar objects, as well as the benefits of various spacecraft storage locations.