Lorentz-Actuated Orbit Spacecraft May Ride Planetary Magnetic Fields
Dr. Mason Peck of Cornell University has received a grant from NASA to further study the possibility of Lorentz-Actuated Orbit spacecraft. Such spacecraft would achieve propulsion without propellants by using planetary magnetic fields.
According to Maxwell's equations, a charged particle moving relative to a magnetic field accelerates in a direction perpendicular to its velocity and the magnetic field. This Lorentz force is known to act on man-made satellites that carry an electrical charge and orbit within a planetary magnetic field.
The key to a usable LAO-orbit spacecraft is providing some sort of self-capacitative structure that can store a suitable electrical charge. The most promising scenario envisions a cylindrical mesh of fibers attached to a spacecraft. The mesh could be charged up using a coating of a radioactive isotope that itself emits charged particles. The Earth's magnetic field would push on the stocking, propelling the spacecraft to a higher orbit and even into interplanetary space. Dr. Peck has proposed a 100 kilogram spacecraft carrying a mesh cylinder with a radius of 41 meters and a length of 4 kilometers.
(Charged 'space stocking' moved by magnetic field)
Other scenarios include the creation of a multi-filament capacitor centering on the spacecraft. Uniformly distributed filaments would bend from Coulomb repulsion (keeps them separated) and Lorentz force (along the qvxB direction). Actual filaments would be virtually invisible and much longer. The highest performing conductive filament is the carbon nanotube.
(Alternative Self-Capacitative Architecture)
Apparently, a new science fiction book is available just this week that takes this idea and runs with it. GRADISIL, by Adam Roberts, makes considerable use of the idea of LAO-orbit spacecraft. According to a review by Starburst "the magnetic boost technologies he uses to put planes into orbit has the smack of an SF trope that’ll become a universal cliché in a few years." I don't think this force is strong enough to put planes into orbit, but it could move spacecraft between space stations in low earth orbit, which seems to be what happens in the novel.
I was unable to find a copy in bookstores, so I don't have a quote. I've pinged the author, but no joy thus far.
If you are interested in recherche spacecraft propulsion technologies, search no further:
Thanks to reader Lou Anders for providing the story idea. For more information, see this interesting paper by Dr. Peck:
Prospects and Challenges for Lorentz-Augmented Orbits. Also, see Spacecraft may surf the solar system on magnetic fields.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/15/2007)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Dream Of Building Your Own Rocket?
Fiorello Bodoni, you inspire all of us.
Used Dragon Cargo Spacecraft Will Fly Again
'the overstrained meters made the smaller craft skittish as a young horse...' - Robert Heinlein
Laser-Powered Spacecraft To Explore The Solar System
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon... for about forty-five years, so the intruder would have a beam to travel on...'- Niven/Pournelle, 1974.
SKYLON Space Plane Gets Boost
'They were more airplane than spaceship...'- Robert Heinlein, 1951.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
SWEEPER Robot Peter Piper Picking Peppers
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant, apparently on caterpillar tracks, cutting off the ripe fruit.'
Oil from Algae - Can It Be Done?
'We dump everything that's waste into the tanks, pump the oil off the top.'
Moving Whole Planets, Revisited
There was a lot of work done on this idea over the years.
Disney Keeps Backups Of Star Wars Franchise Actors
'She is a personality-construct, a congeries of software agents...'
Farming In Space Starts With Mycorrhiza
'The inner leaves were beginning to curl faster than the outer leaves.'
Jaguar I-Pace Audible Vehicle Alert System For EVs
'Of course not a vehicle moved by means of internal explosions of a derivative of rock oil...'
Autonomous 'Fiberbots' Weave Large Structures
'It extrudes material like a spider.'
Birds Aren't Real - Wake Up, California! (With Bird Watching Guide)
'When he had first built them, they had been crude indeed, flying mechanisms with little more than a reflex-response unit.'
Self-Healing Material Pulls Carbon Out Of The Air
'... could seal the punctures.'
IRL Glasses Block Screens, Limit Vision To Real Life
'If you couldn't see the ads, how would you know what was fashionable?'
Testing The Single-Person Spacecraft
'...the lower part of the suit was simply a rigid cylinder.'
Shapeshifting Materials Transform By Light
'Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed.'
Fully Automated Farm Iron Ox Hydroponics
'Had these machines in some incredible fashion been provided with brains?'
BrainNet Social Network Of Brains
'I used my implant to tell MILLIE what we wanted and she took care of it'
Phil Nuyttnn's City Under The Sea
'Under the lower roof there was no water, but a clear and luminous atmosphere...'
IONITY Opens First 10 Fast-Charging Stations
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories