Surfing a Space Telescope on the Solar Wind to Survey Earth Like Worlds

The solar wind can push against a drag device, called a Wind Rider, for fast trip times across the solar system. A small spacecraft can go from Earth orbit to more than 500 times that distance from the sun in about 7 years. It would take the Voyager probes about 25 times longer to reach…
Surfing a Space Telescope on the Solar Wind to Survey Earth Like Worlds

The solar wind can push against a drag device, called a Wind Rider, for fast trip times across the solar system. A small spacecraft can go from Earth orbit to more than 500 times that distance from the sun in about 7 years. It would take the Voyager probes about 25 times longer to reach the same point. A pathfinder probe mission was presented, for scouting ahead of larger space missions in the future.

All simulation results are based on data from earlier measurements. They are applied to a new concept mission, as an example to enable new scientific discovery and understanding of deep space. The example mission goes to a region in deep space where it is possible to observe another solar system, Trappist-1, in great detail. Rules for lawmakers are listed at the end, to help make such missions more practical.

A key benefit to the scientific community of a pathfinder to 542 AU is calibration data for an array of instruments on a flagship probe to interstellar space. There are fundamental processes and parameters of the near interstellar medium, whose estimated range of values could be greatly narrowed by in-situ sampling from a fast and small mission. By selecting an angle relative to the sun, plane of the ecliptic and a scientifically interesting target (such as Trappist-1), it is possible to perform initial optical measurements from the Solar Gravitational Lens (SGL) focal region on the same pathfinder. Doing so provides a basic set of data for larger follow-on missions to observe that (and other) solar systems in greater detail.

The Practical Interplanetary Propulsion (PIP) Study constructed a radial profile for the solar wind ranging from 1 AU through the foreshock at 83 AU, to a notional heliopause at 123 AU, and the near interstellar medium out to 1,800 AU. The resulting matrix of plasma parameters was applied to a trajectory model “seed code,” to test flight paths for future probes. This paper presents an example pathfinder, consisting of a cubesat bus equipped with a Wind Rider propulsion system and radioisotope power system (RPS). A brief description of those subsystems and how they interact with the solar wind or interstellar medium is included.

Trajectory simulation results estimate the trip time from 1 to 542 AU near the plane of the ecliptic takes 6.9 years. Adding a compact imaging instrument enables the probe to sample data from the vantage point of the Trappist-1 SGL, as well as PickUp Ions (PUI) for a 1 year science campaign. Total pathfinder mission time after launch is less than 8 years. A set of policy-making recommendations for enabling such small precursor-type missions is provided in the conclusions, as well as ways to extend the mission to communicate from 1,000 AU to 1,800 AU. Alternatively, a method to gradually decelerate to a near stop at the end of the mission, using the Wind Rider to drag against the interstellar plasma, is also included.

Previous Details of Dynamic Soaring on the Solar Wind to Get to 2-20% of the Speed of Light

How do we extract energy from space around a spacecraft? If there are differences in the speed of the solar wind or differences in flows of particles around a spacecraft or where a spacecraft is passing then highly efficient extraction of power can enable great capabilities.

On earth, we had sailing ships millennia before turbines were created for powered ships. Albatrosses are able to use differences in wind speed to get to speeds over 100 mph. It is called dynamic soaring. Drones have been created that reach over 500 mph leveraging large wind shear and dynamic soaring.

I covered this earlier this month about using the known structure and features of the solar system to access solar wind differences. Around the equator of the sun solar wind is 400 miles per second but out of the poles it is 700 miles per second. Dynamic soaring enables speeds ten times or more than the wind speed. You dive in and out of the differences in wind speed.

Accessing the solar wind efficiently is difficult. The solar wind particles are ten thousand times less energy than the photon – sunlight energy. A physical sail would not work. You have to make a magnetic field as a sail. You also need to go beyond that and have the magnet create a magnetic field and capture electrons and circulate those around the spacecraft for an even larger magnetic field.

Finding two different media with particles at rest.

You have created a magnetic field in space and then created a plasma magnet and then used dynamic soaring to get to 2% of lightspeed.

The next step is to create a magnetic propeller out of the plasma magnet and take about two years to go from 2% to 10-20% of lightspeed.

The magnetic propeller could also involve Q drive. At 5% of light speed the particles have more energy than nuclear fusion. The Q drive proposes efficiently extracting energy from the passing particles when you are at high speed and concentrating it into reaction mass that you carry. Fire the reaction mass out the back to bootstrap to even higher speeds.

A Reaction Drive – Powered by External Dynamic Pressure

A new class of reaction drive is discussed, in which reaction mass is expelled from a vehicle using power extracted from the relative motion of the vehicle and the surrounding medium, such as the solar wind. The physics of this type of drive are reviewed and shown to permit high velocity changes with modest mass ratio while conserving energy and momentum according to well-established physical principles. A comparison to past propulsion methods and propulsion classification studies suggests new mission possibilities for this type of drive. An example of how this principle might be embodied in hardware suggests accelerations sufficient for outer solar system missions, with shorter trip times and lower mass ratios than chemical rockets.

Dynamic Soaring plasma magnet drives get to the first stage 2% of lightspeed to enable the second stage Q-drive.

Look at the sources of energy and the density of the energy and the total flux of the energy.

Slowing down at the target solar system is using the solar winds and other fields of the target system.

Plasma Magnet

Dr. John Slough of the University of Washington. The project dubded Plasma Magnet (better to be called Plasma Magnetic Sail) has been created and validated in the laboratory under NIAC phase I and phase II funding.

This is different than the M2P2 which would fill a static dipole EMF with plasma and use it as a drag device in the solar wind.

Plasma Magnetic Sail operates like a single phase capacitor induction motor, with two coils, sequentially energizing themselves to create a rotating magnetic field (RMF). The speed of the RMF at one AU is ~3 hertz (just below the cyclotron resonant frequency of the hydrogen electrons of the solar wind.) The RMF captures and drags the electrons around in the field, where the protons are too heavy to be caught up in the same. Polyphase coils of 10 meters radius and powered by a mere 1 kilowatt can created an electron populated RMF of 10s. or 100s of kilometers in diameter. The sail expands in size as it moves away from the Sun and unlike the solar sail maintains constrant acceleration.

Phased antennas operating in the radio frequency range produce a rapidly rotating magnetic field. This field preferentially accelerates electrons within a plasma to produce a direct current that can generate a steady state magnetic field that is much larger than can be sustained by practical electromagnets.

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