Can we use the outflow of particles from the Sun to drive spacecraft, helping us build the Solar System infrastructure we’ll one day use as the base for deeper journeys into the cosmos? Jeff Greason, chairman of the board of the Tau Zero Foundation, presented his take on the idea at the recent Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop. The concept captured the attention of Centauri Dreams regular Alex Tolley, who here analyzes the notion, explains its differences from the conventional magnetic sail, and explores the implications of its development. Alex is co-author (with Brian McConnell) of A Design for a Reusable Water-Based Spacecraft Known as the Spacecoach (Springer, 2016), focusing on a new technology for Solar System expansion. A lecturer in biology at the University of California, he now takes us into a different propulsion strategy, one that could be an enabler for human missions near and far.
by Alex Tolley
Suppose I told you that a device you could make yourself would be a more energy efficient space drive than an ion engine with a far better thrust to weight ratio? Fantasy? No!
Such a drive exists. Called the plasma magnet, it is a development of the magnetic sail but ...