Daily Archives: September 11th, 2009

Interplanetary Tunnels and Ion Thrusting

gravspag.91109Gravitational ‘spaghetti’ to travel around the Solar System?

Gravitational corridors could help spacecraft fly across the solar system like ships on ocean currents, it was revealed today.

Scientists in the United States are trying to map the twisting ‘tubes’ so they can be used to cut the cost of space travel.

Each one acts like a gravitational Gulf Stream, created from the complex interplay of attractive forces between planets and moons.


This doesn’t mean ‘space-time’ tunnels to travel to other planets, think of the ‘spaghetti’ as up and down hills and a rollercoaster.

This isn’t a new concept either, the elliptical Hohmann-Vetchinkin transfer orbit was first theorized for space travel during 1921-1925.

Some might quibble that’s a totally different thing, but you can only tinker with orbital mechanics so many ways!

Highway in the Sky: The gravitational corridors that could help spacecraft travel the solar system

 Gravity tunnels?

“Too slow, get back” as we used to say in the Marine Corps.

How ’bout dem ion thrusters, eh?

Mercury probeEngines powered by chemical fuel? How passé. For the spacecraft with truly modern flair, an ion thruster is the only way to go. Such a system might not provide powerful and dramatic bursts of speed, but space agencies around the world are recognizing the benefits of its slow-and-steady approach, which is just what’s needed for cruising between planets.

Ion propulsion works by electrically charging, or ionizing, a gas and accelerating the resulting ions to propel a spacecraft. The concept was conceived more than 50 years ago, and the first spacecraft to use the technology was Deep Space 1 in 1998. Since then … there have only been a few other noncommercial spacecrafts that have used ion propulsion [Technology Review]. However, the technology has a clear advantage over chemical propulsion when it comes to long distance missions, because a very small amount of gas can carry a spacecraft a long way. Astronautics expert Alexander Bruccoleri explains that with chemical propulsion, “You are limited in what you can bring to space because you have to carry a rocket that is mostly fuel” [Technology Review].

One commenter mentions that ion propulsion has been “around the corner” since the 1960s, and that’s true.

The civilian mainstream space program is decades behind the military program.

And the sheeple bleat on.

Ion Thrusters Come of Age for Interplanetary Spacecraft

Thanx to the Daily Grail for today’s hat tips!