NASA announced details of a new propulsion system called the "E-Sail."

NASA scientists recently announced details of a new propulsion system, the "E-Sail," that interacts with the particles released by the sun to create thrust that allows spacecraft to acquire Unprecedented speed. Compared to the "solar sail" (solar panel powered) powered spacecraft, it will significantly shorten the spacecraft will be sent to interstellar space.

The researchers said the system took only about 10 years to send the spacecraft to the top of the solar system - the top of the solar system - for the same distance, spending 35 years on the spacecraft. Researchers hope to test the "electronic sail" system around 2020.

Use the solar wind to move forward

The full name of the "e-sail" concept is "Solar Wind Top Electrostatic Rapid Transmission System Electronic Sail". Instead of using built-in propellant, the solar wind is used as the propulsion power.

The "e-sails" consist of a slowly rotating spacecraft and 10 to 20 live aluminum wires. Although these aluminum wires are only 1 millimeter in diameter, they are about 12.5 miles in length. Bruce Weigman, lead researcher at Marshall's Advanced Concept Office and lead researcher for the e-sails project, explained in an interview with the BBC: "The 'e-sails' will use some protons to propel the spacecraft forward. The sun travels at 400 to 750 km / S of high-speed release of positively charged protons and electrons to the solar wind, which are mutually exclusive with the positively charged protons in the solar wind, pushing the spacecraft forward. "

Currently, the researchers are Marshall Space Flight Center to start the test, the test will last more than two years. These tests will determine the number of protons that are offset by the wire and the amount of electrons that are attracted by the wire. Engineers will also conduct plasma tests to improve the data model for further research and development of "e-sails."

Weigmann said: "We are trying to prove this technology, hoping to carry it out by the early 1920s, and we are studying the physics to clarify how much the solar wind will produce."

It is reported that this concept is based on the invention of Dr. Parka Kamon of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. However, the researchers said there are still many areas where this concept needs improvement and may take at least 10 years to put into practice .

Aging advantages more prominent

As the voyage progresses, the effective area of ​​the "e-sails" will continue to grow: at an astronomical range of 1 AU (average distance between the Earth and the Sun at approximately 93 million miles), the effective area will be 232 Square miles; but when the voyage reaches 5 astronomical units, the effective area will exceed 463 miles.

The increase in effective area will allow "e-sails" to have a longer acceleration distance than other propulsion systems. For example, when a typical solar sailboat flies to an asteroid belt (5 astronauts), the energy of the solar protons will dissipate, causing an acceleration stop. Weigmann explained: "But the protons in the solar wind will not dissipate. Due to the steady flow of proton flow and the continuous increase of effective area, the" electronic sail "can continue to accelerate to 16 to 20 astronomical units, which can also produce faster speed."

In 2012, NASA's "Traveler 1" lasted 35 years and crossed 121 astronomical units, making it the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space through the top of the solar wind. With the new method, the spacecraft can accomplish the same journey in just one-third of the time. Weigmann said: "We can carry out the same mission with the" Voyager 1 ", but only 10 years or 12 years. With this system, we can reach Pluto in 5 to 6 years, is the current 'dawn' Half of the time it took to reach Jupiter within two years, and most recently cosmological 'Juno' Juno probes have been put into Jupiter's embrace for five years.

Flexible and versatile

The researchers said that although the latest research was designed to send spacecraft into the top of the solar wind, it could also be used to detect objects in the solar system. "As we look deeper into this conceptual system, we are increasingly discovering that this approach is not only flexible but also applicable to a wide range of applications. Designers can travel to and from the solar system, extrasolar planets or The top of the solar wind to tune the length of the wire, the number of wires and voltage.

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