The Oculus Project: Gravitational Lensing, Earth-Like Exoplanets and Solar Sailing


R. Murzionak et al. (2016), JBIS69, pp.439-449

Refcode: 2016.69.439
Keywords: Exoplanet, Nulling interferometry, Gravitational lens, Solar sail

The Oculus Project is a conceptual study to design a solar sailing interstellar precursor mission which uses gravitational lensing of the Sun to study Earth-like exoplanets at the center of the Milky Way. It uses nulling interferometry in the x-Array configuration with four light collecting spacecraft and one beam combiner to detect distant exoplanets. The baseline must be 20-150 km to obtain angular resolutions of 30-200 µas in order to observe exoplanet’s atmosphere composition, detecting H2O, O3, CH4 and CO2 signatures in mid-IR (6-20 µm) spectrum. Solar sailing is used to reach 550-800 AU, where gravitational lensing takes place. The mission launch date is estimated to be around 2050 with the spacecraft reaching cruise speeds of 15-41 AU/yr with a payload mass of 2-3 tonnes.