NASA has recently revealed details about the radical ‘proton power system’ that could catapult spacecraft to the edge of the universe in around ten years, revolutionizing everything we knew about space travel and space exploration.
NASA engineers have recently leaked new details of a radical spacecraft propulsion system that cut drastically reduce the traveling time of spacecraft into interstellar space.
According to reports, the new propulsion system would interact with particles that are being released by the sun, which repel protons in order to create trust and achieve never-before-seen speeds, catapulting our new spacecraft into interstellar space like never before.
According to experts, if the new propulsion system is adopted, it could take man-made spacecraft into the so-called ‘heliopause’ in a matter of ten years, a feat that took the historical Voyager Spacecraft 35 years to achieve.
If everything goes according to plan, experts expect to start testing out their new propulsion system by 2020.
Speaking to the BBC, Wiegmann, an engineer in Marshall’s Advanced Concepts Office and the principal investigator for the E-Sail said:
“We could do the same type of mission as Voyager but within 10 or 12 years. We could get to Pluto in five or six years, half the time of the recent Dawn mission, and Jupiter in two years.”
The new ‘alien-like’ propulsion system is referred to as the Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (Herts) AKA E-Sail and is able to work without traditional, built-in propellants.
In fact, the E-Sail would be catapulted into space by the solar wind which would allow it to reach the edge of our solar system with ease.
Researchers explain that a slowly spinning spacecraft would send out up to twenty electrically charged aluminum wires in order to form a massive E-Sail.
“You have long thin bare wires that are positively charged extending from a slowly rotating spacecraft,” says Wiegmann, from Nasa’s Advanced Concepts Office at the Marshall Space Center in Alabama.
“The positively charged wires will repel the positively charged ions in the solar wind to push the spacecraft along – it’s like the magnets we played with at school, magnets of the same polarity repel each other.”
However, experts warn that making this revolutionary propulsion system possible may not be easy.
“There’s a bunch of problems with it,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, professor of astrophysics at the University of Michigan.
“Most of the energy that comes out of the Sun is light,” he says. “The total force across a solar sail is roughly equivalent to the gravitational force of a chocolate bar on a football field – the force of the solar wind is a thousand times smaller than that.”
Each of the E-sail’s wires would be only one millimeter thick, and extend up to 12 and a half miles in length. This would allow the E-sail to propel protons using the solar wind, eventually creating necessary thrust to propel the spacecraft.
“The sun releases protons and electrons into the solar wind at very high speeds – 400 to 750 kilometers per second, the E-Sail would use these protons to propel the spacecraft.” said Bruce Wiegmann, and engineer in Marshall’s Advanced Concepts Office and the principal investigator for the HERTS E-Sail.
“We’re trying to prove the technology,’ says Wiegmann, who aims to fly the first demonstration mission in the early 2020s. We’re also studying the physics so we know how much propulsive force the solar wind will produce. Everything has to start someplace.”