A solar-powered rocket is likely to be our ticket to interstellar area

A solar-powered rocket might be our ticket to interstellar space

Enlarge (credit score: Haitong Yu | Getty Pictures)

If Jason Benkoski is true, the trail to interstellar area begins in a transport container tucked behind a laboratory excessive bay in Maryland. The setup seems like one thing out of a low-budget sci-fi movie: one wall of the container is lined with hundreds of LEDs, an inscrutable steel trellis runs down the middle, and a thick black curtain partially obscures the equipment. That is the Johns Hopkins College Utilized Physics Laboratory photo voltaic simulator, a software that may shine with the depth of 20 Suns. On Thursday afternoon, Benkoski mounted a small black-and-white tile onto the trellis and pulled a darkish curtain across the setup earlier than stepping out of the transport container. Then he hit the sunshine change.

As soon as the photo voltaic simulator was blistering scorching, Benkoski began pumping liquid helium by a small embedded tube that snaked throughout the slab. The helium absorbed warmth from the LEDs because it wound by the channel and expanded till it was lastly launched by a small nozzle. It won’t sound like a lot, however Benkoski and his crew simply demonstrated photo voltaic thermal propulsion, a beforehand theoretical kind of rocket engine that’s powered by the Solar’s warmth. They assume it may very well be the important thing to interstellar exploration.

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