One of the main challenges that face interplanetary travel is the production of very large velocity changes, necessary for travel between planets in the solar system. The Sun’s gravitational pull affects how spacecrafts move. The farther from the sun the slower the spacecraft and the faster they are closer to the sun. Additionally, two planets have different distances from the sun and this causes a difference on their speeds around the sun. This therefore means that the spaceships traveling closer to the sun must reduce their speed with respect to the sun in order to intercept. For a spacecraft traveling away from the sun, the speed must be increased substantially.
Changes in Velocity
If the spacecraft wishes to enter into the orbit of a given planet, its speed must match the planet’s orbital speed around the sun, normally requiring large changes in velocity. Doing this by brute force to accelerate on the shortest route to the destination and then matching with a given planet’s speed would consume a large amount of fuel. More fuel is also needed to put both the spaceship and the required fuel to take it through its interplanetary journey as this fuel requires to be launched along with the payload. All these factors pose a great pressure on fuel consumption for spaceships. Several techniques, however, have been devised to ensure the reduction of fuel requirements during interplanetary travel.
The question of how you can carry enough to reach you to the outer space has probably been solved by fuel-conscious scientists at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. The folks at the center recently tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive with the potential to replace the traditional propellant used in space travel. Although this technology has been tested before, scientists at Johnson Space Center are the first to test and conduct such trials under conditions similar to space-in vacuum.
EM drives have over a long time worked great in theory but the technology had been seen to be hindered by certain fundamental principles of physics. This is the main reason why it had take more time to fully attain its stability for real world applications. The key to present success for this drive lay in the quantum vacuum. The practical application for electromagnetic drives to space travel and specifically to space stations was certainly brought closer to reality in 2010 by a Chinese professor, Juan Yang. His research showed that such a drive may provide the needed power to enable the International Space Station to accomplish its tasks without any need for energy re-boosts from visiting vehicles. The main challenge was how to overcome the complexity of propulsion in space.
By performing this test in a vacuum, the team has been able to show that the thrust produced by EM Drives as elucidated by Professor Yang’s research may actually work within the space environment. This is made possible by eliminating the need for a traditional propellant and hence extends the boundaries of interplanetary travel. Interestingly, the technologies required to make EM drives a realistic solution for space travel are already in use on high-power communication satellites.
Additional tests need to be carried out, however, to study and understand the magnetic interactions of the power feeding lines used mostly for the liquid metal contacts. Nevertheless, scientists have already observed thrusts that have made it closer to the magnitude of the actual predictions. This has been achieved after eliminating the possible error sources that should warrant further research and investigations into the phenomena. Other tests that will be required include further vacuum tests, better magnetic shielding, and improved EM Drive models with higher electronics and Q factors that allow tuning for optimal operations.
Other technologies for interplanetary travel have been proposed while others have been tested and developed. All this is done with the aim not just to save fuel but significantly offer faster travel options to Honmann transfers. More are still just theoretical but some have seen through successful missions such as the ion drive used by Deep Space 1 mission. If all goes as planned, EM Drives have the potential to facilitate future space flight. This technology has the ability to offer travelers a 70-day excursion to mars, and about 9-month expedition to Saturn. And for those looking to travel closer home, the innovation would make the moon just four hours away.
Well, that’s it for now, but on totally random side note, I need to hire a painter. If you know of a good one in the Peoria area, shoot me a note!