Electric Solar Wind Sail could make bidirectional manned Mars flights economically feasible


Share post:

The E-sail is a novel propellantless technology that was invented in Finland in 2006. The E-sail utilises long, charged tethers to convert natural solar wind momentum flux into spacecraft thrust.

Electric Solar Wind Sail could make bidirectional manned Mars flights economically feasible
Electric Solar Wind Sail could make bidirectional manned Mars flights
 economically feasible [Credit: Istock/rajeshbac]

According to Janhunen et al. (2015) the E-sail could make asteroid mining feasible by providing essentially free logistics in the solar system outside of Earth’s magnetosphere. After finding a suitable water bearing asteroid, a mining unit is could be sent by the E-sail to extract the water from asteroid soil.

This can be done by heating the material and letting the evolving water vapour condense in a cool container. When the container is full, it is separated from the mining unit and transported with an E-sail in to the orbit of Mars or Earth, where it is split into hydrogen and oxygen and liquefied. The liquid hydrogen/oxygen (LH2/LOX) fuel can be used to fill the tanks of manned vehicles travelling between Earth and Mars.

Electric Solar Wind Sail could make bidirectional manned Mars flights economically feasible
Electric solar wind sail facilitated Manned Mars Initiative (EMMI) makes continuous
 bidirectional manned Mars flights possible by utilising water mined from the asteroids. 
In the heart of this scheme is the electric solar wind sail which provides propellantless
 transportation within the solar system, thus enabling economical asteroid mining 
[Credit: Finnish Meteorological Institute]

Due to the exponential nature of the rocket equation, intermediate tankings reduce the launch mass dramatically. During the trip, asteroid-mined water could also be used as radiation shielding of the manned module to reduce the launch mass further. With cheap propellant available in Mars orbit, there is also the option of fully propulsive landing on Mars which eliminates the need of a massive and expensive heat shield.

The Electric solar wind sail facilitated Manned Mars Initiative, EMMI, could provide a fundamentally new, economically sustainable way to approach manned Mars flights. The running costs of the EMMI are not expected to much exceed those of maintaining the International Space Station.

Source: Finnish Meteorological Institute [April 28, 2015]



Related articles

Cluster reveals inner workings of earth’s cosmic particle accelerator

Using unprecedented in-situ data from ESA's Cluster mission, scientists have shed light on the ever-changing nature of Earth's...

Sub-Neptune sized planet validated with the habitable-zone planet finder

A signal originally detected by the Kepler spacecraft has been validated as an exoplanet using the Habitable-zone Planet...

Hubble probes the archaeology of our Milky Way’s ancient hub

For many years, astronomers had a simple view of our Milky Way's central hub, or bulge, as a...

Magnetic fields force new perspective on Milky Way’s black hole

Observations from Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) indicate that the magnetic field near our galaxy's core is...

Scientists detect radio echoes of a black hole feeding on a star

On Nov. 11, 2014, a global network of telescopes picked up signals from 300 million light years away...

Scientists dig into the origin of organics on dwarf planet Ceres

Since NASA's Dawn spacecraft detected localized organic-rich material on Ceres, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been digging into...

How do you weigh a galaxy? Especially the one you’re in?

Pinning down the mass of a galaxy may seem like an esoteric undertaking, but scientists think it holds...

NASA Mars Rover team aims for landing closer to prime science site

NASA has narrowed the target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, which will land on the Red...