NASA Starts Testing E-Sail Technology To Send Spacecraft To The Edge Of Our Solar System

Posted: Apr 13 2016, 5:41am CDT | by , in Latest Science News

NASA Starts Testing E-Sail Technology to Send Spacecraft to the Edge of Our Solar System
In this concept, long, very thin, bare wires construct the large, circular E-Sail that would electrostatically repel the fast moving solar protons. The momentum exchange produced as the protons are repelled by the positively charged wires would create the spacecraft’s thrust. Credits: NASA/MSFC
  • NASA road-tests Highly Innovative E-Sail Technology

NASA has begun road-testing its highly innovative E-Sail technology.

NASA has begun making forays into what is a revolutionary system of propulsion. The venue is Huntsville, Alabama and this means of transportation could allow NASA to send its spacecraft faster than ever to the edges of our solar system.

Termed the Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS), the E-Sail system is a way by means of which spacecraft could be catapulted into deep space. The solar wind is harnessed to do this job.

The sun gives of protons and electrons which enter the solar wind at extremely high speeds. These range from 400 to 750 km per second. These protons could be used to move the spacecraft at high speed.

From the center of the spacecraft, a series of 10 to 20 electrically charged, naked aluminum wires would go on to form the E-Sail. This device would repel the protons of the solar wind.

As the protons are flung back by the positively charged wires, momentum is automatically created. Thrust would be thus created in a systematic manner.

Each wire is very thin in consistency. It is only one mm in thickness. That is about as thick as the wire used to make a paper clip. However, it is very long. In fact, it goes on and on for almost 12 ½ miles.

That is the length of 219 football fields. The spacecraft will revolve slowly at one revolution per hour. That is when the centrifugal forces will stretch the tethers into the correct stance.

The road-testing involves the rate of proton and electron collisions with the positively charged wire. Inside a plasma chamber, a stainless steel wire would be used to simulate the action of a aluminum wire. The deflections of the protons from the wire will also be measured by NASA’s engineers.

The future of E-Sail technology looks promising. The electrons gravitating to the wire will also be measured. This creative technology will take ten years to reach completion.

Until then some road-testing is of the essence. The need for propulsion systems that are faster than the run-of-the-mill types found in current times necessitated this thing called E-Sail technology.

The exploration and colonization of the Heliosphere is what this is all about. Deep space is the ultimate destination. It is what space exploration has been all about right from the beginning.

NASA engineers are conducting tests to develop models for the Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transport System (HERTS) concept. HERTS builds upon the electric sail invention of Dr. Pekka Janhunen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. An electric sail could potentially send scientific payloads to the edge of our solar system, the heliopause, in less than 10 years. The research is led by Bruce M. Wiegmann, an engineer in the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The HERTS E-Sail concept development and testing is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. For more information: ( Credits: NASA/MSFC

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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