Electric solar wind sail to power space travel

April 18th, 2008 - 1:57 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 18 (IANS) An electric solar wind sail developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute two years ago has moved rapidly from invention towards implementation. The electric solar wind sail developed by Pekka Janhunen might revolutionise space travel. It uses the solar wind as its thrust source and therefore needs no fuel or propellant.

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

“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 power production,” Janhunen said.

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.

“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,” said Janhunen, reports Sciencedaily.

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, ground-based solar power where storing the energy over night, cloudy weather and winter are tricky issues, especially here in the far North,” said Janhunen.

The first international electric sail meeting is being organized in the Netherlands on May 19.

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