Published on January 11th, 2013 | by James Ayre3
Electric Solar Sail Technology Moving Forward, “Impossible To Create” Electric Sail Tether Produced
The electric solar sail, or ESAIL, is a ‘sail’ that provides propulsion for a spacecraft simply by using the solar wind, no fuel whatsoever. Invented only very recently, in 2006, a prototype has not yet been created. But now one of the primary limitations have been overcome, the production of the 1-km-long ESAIL tether, something which had been considered impossible by most global experts in ultrasonic welding.
The technology, which works by creating a electric field that deflects solar wind protons and takes momentum from them, offers the future possibility of fast, cheap, and fuel-less travel throughout the solar system. And perhaps more interestingly, an economically viable way to extract resources from asteroids.
Four years ago, it was the view of international experts in ultrasonic welding that it would be impossible to produce tethers made of extremely thin wires welded together every centimeter. (It’s necessary for the tethers to be created this way, though, so that micrometeoroids, like those that cause meteor showers, don’t cause debilitating damage to the structure.)