Sail the Solar Wind… for “free.”

I just realized something.

Was reading New Scientist earlier, when I read the following article:  they now have not merely thermo-electric devices, but radiation-electric devices.

That pinged in the back of my head for a bit, but it wasn’t until a moment ago when it clicked.

Oh, shit.  This gives us the solar system.

How does it do that?  Ion engines.  A radiation-electric ion drive system lets you leave your cruising fuel on the ground… the sun, in all its deadly radioactive glory, will give you everything you need… and you’ve solved, in that same stroke, one of the biggest problems to long-term habitability.

Golevka, here I come.

Leave a comment


  1. 10 times faster than chemical propulsion, and 10 times more efficient… couple that with a radiation-electric converter…

    Battlestar Galactica here I come.

    This is absolutely incredible.

  2. Jcorne

     /  March 31, 2008

    It might even be better than origami spacecraft…

  3. Alex

     /  April 1, 2008

    Shouldn’t you be doing your taxes, or are you procrastinating again? 🙂

    Yes indeed very neat, but the trick is to get the right type of radiation focused into the engine. The radiation flux needed for these devices is strongest closest to the sun, and the further away you get, the more the radiation source weakens so your power supply may indeed be relatively infinite, but it’s not uniform throughout the solar system.

  4. Alex just took my point. Much more useful for Mercury than for Jupiter….

    That said, what radiation? Is this a beta-decay battery, or a trap for free-range neutrons?

  5. Yep, it is… but these engines don’t need tons of d/t acceleration, because the specific impulse is so high and so constant…. tiny, tiny degrees of thrust over long, long periods will do the job. That’s why they’re still considered a candidate for interstellar propulsion.

    What type of radiation is beyond my layman’s data… for now. I’ve pinged the speculist folks, and hopefully they’ll be willing to look into it.

  6. Alex

     /  April 2, 2008

    From the materials described in the article it looks like gamma radiation powers the material. Alpha and beta will just absorb into the materials used for this device. The current ion engines powering exploratory satellites around the solar system have Plutonium batteries that I suspect work on the same concept as the materials described in this article.

  7. Chris

     /  April 6, 2008

    I’m definitely the non math/engineering type around here. I saw “sail” and had Cartman’s version of “Come sail away” start up in my head. Gah.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Featured Eyeballs

  • What’s today again?

    March 2008
    M T W T F S S
    « Feb   Apr »
  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 133,651 hits
  • Recent Comments

    Cults and Context |… on So, about that Bruce Jenner…
    Cults and Context |… on Yes, I AM, in fact, looking at…
    Cults and Context |… on How The Internet Says “D…
    Kat Laurange on Hungarian Military Sabre …
    Kat Laurange on Rose Garden! The Home Edi…
  • Advertisements
    %d bloggers like this: