Apr 12

NASA is working on a radical new type of propulsion system

Voyager 1 might have traveled to the outer confines of the solar system, but it’s a feat that has so far taken a ridiculous 35 years, meaning that in order to truly explore the distant planets and to even consider traveling to other stars, we will need something with a little bit more oomph than traditional chemical rocket propulsion systems.

This is where NASA’s proposed pellet-beam propulsion comes in – it’s a radical new concept that could propel a spacecraft so quickly that it would be able to catch up with Voyager I in just over five years.

It works a little bit like the ‘light sail’ idea currently being developed by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative which involves firing lasers at a sail-like mechanism on the spacecraft to propel it along.

For pellet-beam propulsion, a second spacecraft would be launched that would fire a beam of tiny microscopic particles at the sail, with the heat from the lasers melting part of the pellets into plasma, enabling them to go even faster.

“This proposal examines a new propulsion architecture for fast transit of heavy (1 ton and more) payloads across the solar system and to interstellar medium,” said aerospace engineer Artur Davoyan who lead the research behind the proposal.

“With the pellet-beam, outer planets can be reached in less than a year, 100 AU [astronomical unit] in about 3 year and solar gravity lens at 500 AU in about 15 years.”

It might be some time before we actually see a system like this in action, however, as it is still very much in the early concept stages at the moment.

4 Responses to “NASA is working on a radical new type of propulsion system”

  1. Blake S

    If SpaceX has shown us anything, it is that nothing it getting past the firmament. NASA was created to transform the human mind into a fantasy based reality. Just look at Wernher Von Braun’s headstone.

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