Sail Concepts

A Light Bridge to Nearby Stars

August 23, 2013

by Charles Quarra Charles Quarra tells me that like many kids who grow up dreaming about the stars, he realized early on that a career in physics would make sense. A book-filled childhood helped fix this focus, especially Carl Sagan’s The Cosmic Connection and Peter Nicholls’ The Science in Science Fiction. Charles went on to […]

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Sailcraft: Uses of the Beam

August 22, 2013

I’m always on the lookout for practical ways to use solar sails. We think long-term here and interstellar flight is the topic, but the other side of that coin is that we need to see incremental progress made that builds toward a significant human presence in space. Creating the installations to send powerful microwave or […]

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The Path to Beamed Sails

August 21, 2013

Several years ago in Italy Les Johnson told me that he had once had the coolest job description in NASA. And I remember those days in the early 2000s when I was just beginning to investigate interstellar issues, and Les, working at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, carried a NASA business card describing him […]

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Key Issues for Interstellar Sails

August 20, 2013

The evening after Jim Benford’s Starship Congress talk on his solar sail lab work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a small group of sail advocates joined him in the Hilton Anatole’s top floor restaurant to talk over the issues. Benford is organizing Project Forward, named after the legendary Robert Forward, as an Icarus Interstellar effort […]

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The Sail Comes to Texas

August 19, 2013

Low clouds had descended upon Dallas when I landed at Love Field, and by the time I got to the Hilton Anatole for the Starship Congress being hosted by Icarus Interstellar, the city outside was swathed in mist. This was last Wednesday evening, and it was late enough by the time I had dinner that […]

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Focus on the Sail

July 3, 2013

The British geneticist and biologist J.B.S. Haldane has left us with one of the more memorable lines about scientific inquiry, one that draws on the richest of all of Shakespeare’s plays for its punch. Hamlet tells Horatio that there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in his philosophy (Act 1, […]

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To Ride the Solar Wind

May 9, 2013

What we hope to learn from early experiments with the electric sail is whether keeping a steady electric potential on long tethers will give us enough interaction with the solar wind to make for viable propulsion. ESTCube-1, launched earlier this week, is a step in that direction. Even though it uses but a single 10-meter […]

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Enter the Electric Sail

May 8, 2013

Some years back at the Aosta interstellar conference I had the pleasure of being on a bus making its way at night through the Italian alps with Pekka Janhunen sitting immediately in front of me. Janhunen (Finnish Meteorological Institute) is the developer of the electric sail concept soon to be tested by the ESTCube-1 satellite, […]

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An Early Nod to Beamed Propulsion

December 17, 2012

It’s always interesting how different strands of research can come together at unexpected moments. The last couple of posts on Centauri Dreams have involved new work on Titan, and early references in science fiction to Saturn’s big moon. The science fiction treatments show the appeal of a distant object with an atmosphere, with writers speculating […]

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Medusa: Nuclear Pulse Propulsion and the Sail

July 20, 2012

Hybrid propulsion technologies have emerged naturally as we look at ways to reach the stars. They’re the result of trying to extract maximum performance from each option, and it sometimes turns out that putting two ideas together works better than either by itself. Next week we’ll be looking at one such concept, A. A. Jackson’s […]

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