NextBigFuture points to a neat concept for slowing a spacecraft when it enters an atmosphere. A study of the Magnetoshell concept was funded by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC). As shown in the slide below, the spacecraft would release a tethered device that creates a magnetized plasma, which in turn interacts with the atoms in the atmosphere in a manner that creates drag. The size and mass of such a system is much less than for a reentry shield and big parachutes. So it would allow for greater payload mass for missions to Mars or other bodies in the solar system with atmospheres.
Says Zeitlin, “This is the first study using observations from space to confirm what has been thought for some time – that plastics and other lightweight materials are pound-for-pound more effective for shielding against cosmic radiation than aluminum. Shielding can’t entirely solve the radiation exposure problem in deep space, but there are clear differences in effectiveness of different materials.”
The plastic-aluminum comparison was made in earlier ground-based tests using beams of heavy particles to simulate cosmic rays. “The shielding effectiveness of the plastic in space is very much in line with what we discovered from the beam experiments, so we’ve gained a lot of confidence in the conclusions we drew from that work,” says Zeitlin. “Anything with high hydrogen content, including water, would work well.”
Our SunSat Design Competition was officially launched last week at the International Space Development Conference in San Diego. This Competition – to generate multiple new designs for the next-generation satellites and earth/space architectures for delivering sun’s energy from space to earth – is a targeted project of the National Space Society and the Society of Satellite Professionals International. Ohio University has agreed to manage the two-year Competition, but money must be raised to make it happen.
Our Indiegogo micro-funding campaign has been extended for an additional 45 days in an effort to raise the full $110,000. Please help us by going to our new International SunSat Design Competition site on Indiegogo and make a contribution at one of the several funding levels. You are also encouraged to share this opportunity with others with mutual interests.
If you doubt your contribution will make a difference, take a look at the Lewis Fraas ISDC presentation on Reflective Sunlight that is in the process of being published by the Space Journal. Earlier this week, Dr. Fraas’ paper and the Ohio University student visualization of the concept he introduced in San Diego was shared with the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the India Institute of Space Sciences and Technology (IISST), via Dr. APJ Abdulkalam.
Global interest in space is growing. By using the creative talents of our universities, working cooperatively with our space professionals, we can help to accelerate public interest in these developments. Energy from space is one of those historically significant first steps. Your financial assistance of this important international initiative – added to the contributions of others – will make a difference. Please join us.