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Superconducting Islands Amplify Photon Pressure

The ripple in space that we call a photon, or wave/particle of light, does have some mass, but it is so small that is almost zero. It normally takes millions of photons just to measure any impact at all. Joint research based in Finland shows that an island of superconductivity can amplify the ability to […]

Microwave Starwisp Sails

Robert Forward was a physicist, an aerospace engineer, an inventor, a science writer and a science fiction author. In 1985, he published an idea to create ultra-light interstellar probes that used microwave beamed power sails for propulsion. Freeman Dyson had pointed out to him that microwaves could use a sail with a much larger grid […]

Tiny Sprite Spacecraft

Tiny spacecraft, known as “sprites” contain microchips and have the ability to supply power, communications and even propulsion. Three prototypes of these postage stamp sized spacecraft will be sent up to the space station for testing on the next shuttle flight. Eventually, the hope is to test the usability of releasing a large cloud of […]

IKAROS Solar Sail

In what may be the most serious test of solar sail technology to date, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) on May 18, 2010. IKAROS will use a rotational maneuver to unfurl and deploy the sail, which is 20 meters across, 0.0075 mm thick and […]

Propulsion

Space propulsion engines are very different from thrusting engines designed to boost an object out of a planetary gravity well. They must be more efficient, must not require large quanties of expendable supplies (either fuel or thrusting material) and must be able to operate continually. Thrusters: Chemical thrusters currently used in satellite spacecraft don’t offer […]

Solar Sails

Solar sails were first proposed by Kepler almost four hundred years ago. The idea of a solar sail is use a large expanse of a thin, light film to “catch” the pressure of photons in light and use that pressure to accelerate a space craft in a desired direction. Progress at NASA: A Brief History […]