Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Electric Solar Wind Sail Could Power Future Space Travel In Solar System

Date:
April 17, 2008
Source:
Finnish Meteorological Institute
Summary:
A new electric solar wind sail is almost ready for implementation. Electric sail propulsion might have a large impact on space research and space travel throughout the solar system. The electric solar wind sail uses the solar wind as its thrust source and therefore needs no fuel or propellant. The solar wind is a continuous plasma stream emanating from the Sun. Changes in the properties of the solar wind cause auroral brightening and magnetic storms, among other things.

The electric sail uses the solar wind as its thrust source and therefore needs no fuel or propellant.
Credit: Credit: Antonin Halas / Image courtesy of Finnish Meteorological Institute

The electric solar wind sail developed at the Finnish Meteorological Institute two years ago has moved rapidly from invention towards implementation. Electric sail propulsion might have a large impact on space research and space travel throughout the solar system.

The electric solar wind sail developed by Dr. Pekka Janhunen might revolutionise travelling in space. The electric sail uses the solar wind as its thrust source and therefore needs no fuel or propellant. The solar wind is a continuous plasma stream emanating from the Sun. Changes in the properties of the solar wind cause auroral brightening and magnetic storms, among other things.

The main parts of the device are long metallic tethers and a solar-powered electron gun which keeps the tethers positively charged. The solar wind exerts a small but continuous thrust on the tethers and the spacecraft.

“We haven't encountered major problems in any of the technical fields thus far. This has already enabled us to start planning the first test mission,” says Dr. Pekka Janhunen. An important subgoal was reached when the Electronics Research Laboratory of the University of Helsinki managed to develop a method for constructing a multiline micrometeoroid-resistant tether out of very thin metal wires using ultrasonic welding. The newly developed technique allows the bonding together of thin metal wires in any geometry; thus, the method might also have spinoff applications outside the electric sail.

Electric Sail For Space Travel

The electric sail could enable faster and cheaper solar system exploration. It might also enable economic utilisation of asteroid resources for, e.g. producing rocket fuel in orbit.

“The electric sail might lower the cost of all space activities and thereby, for example, help making large solar power satellites a viable option for clean electricity production. Solar power satellites orbiting in the permanent sunshine of space could transmit electric power to Earth by microwaves without interruptions. Continuous power would be a major benefit compared to, e.g. ground-based solar power where storing the energy over night, cloudy weather and winter are tricky issues, especially here in the far North,” says Dr. Pekka Janhunen.

Component work for the electric sail was carried out at the University of Helsinki and in Germany, Sweden, Russia and Italy. The electric sail was invented as a by-product of basic research done at the Finnish Meteorological Institute on the interaction of the solar wind with planets and their atmospheres. Work on the electric sail in Finland is currently funded by the Academy of Finland and private foundations.

The first international electric sail meeting will be arranged at ESA ESTEC in Noordwijk, The Netherlands on May 19, 2008.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Finnish Meteorological Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Finnish Meteorological Institute. "Electric Solar Wind Sail Could Power Future Space Travel In Solar System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080415162612.htm>.
Finnish Meteorological Institute. (2008, April 17). Electric Solar Wind Sail Could Power Future Space Travel In Solar System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080415162612.htm
Finnish Meteorological Institute. "Electric Solar Wind Sail Could Power Future Space Travel In Solar System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080415162612.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) MIT developed a robot modeled after a cheetah. It can run up to speeds of 10 mph, though researchers estimate it will eventually reach 30 mph. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Refurbished New York Subway Tunnel Unveiled After Sandy Damage

Refurbished New York Subway Tunnel Unveiled After Sandy Damage

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 15, 2014) New York officials unveil subway tunnels that were refurbished after Superstorm Sandy. Nathan Frandino reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins