Meet ‘Solar Express’, a train that can pace to Mars at 1% speed of light!

Image courtesy: Science Alert/Boris Schwarzer/Imaginative

Charles Bombardier, a Montreal-based innovator, has come forward with a concept of space train concept which may in future can turn into a disruptive technology against the existing ones in the field of space science.

Bombardier calls his concept ‘Solar Express’ which according to him, may be able to shuttle passengers and payloads between planets at a rate of 1 percent of light’s speed, ie; up-to 3000 km/second.

Such a speed would drop the travel time between Earth and Mars to less than two days.

“In space, the most expensive portions of travel are the acceleration and deceleration phases. The energy required for those portions is tremendous, especially for something as heavy as a space train. In addition, if you were to start hauling cargo, it would become very expensive,” he said on Solar Express’ site.

Also read: NASA bucks-up to launch probe into the Sun by 2018

“However, once the train reached its cruising speed, its energy consumption would be minimal. That’s the idea behind the Solar Express concept. It would never stop; instead, space wagons/capsules would rendezvous with it.”

While it’s important to keep in mind that this is just a conceptual idea and not a project actually being implemented in reality (yet, anyway), the team is looking for out-of-the-box solutions to overcome the current ‘speed barrier’ problems faced by space scientists.

So how exactly would this ‘Space Train’ works?

According to the team, Solar Express would consist of a line of aligned cylinders roughly 50 metres (164 feet) in length. Six of these cylinders – which you can think of as train cars – would link together in a straight line and hurtled through space.

Solar Express would use rocket boosters, keeping a small amount of fuel on reserve to adjust course. Then, the train would slingshot around celestial bodies to gain speed without needing more fuel.

“Huge solar arrays located along the train’s path could be used to capture solar energy and transfer it by laser to super-capacitors. Water harvested from comets or small moons would be used for humans living on the train and transported to other stations,” Bombardier explains.

Also read: Meet ‘Super Guppy’ – NASA’s incredible cargo carrier

“Harvested water could also be used to create hydrogen and propellant, but the main propulsion system should take the form of an ion thrusters.”

Once in motion, the train would never stop. Instead, smaller crafts would join up by coming in a synchronous orbit with the train when it starts to orbit a planet. In this way supplies could be gathered and passengers offloaded. The ability of the ‘train’ to keep going forever is speculated to cut costs, however, initial investment would be considerable.

If the technology becomes a reality, the possibilities of a working Solar Express would be incredible. According to Kritin Tablang from Forbes, a trip from Earth to the Moon would take merely 2.13 minutes, while a trip to Mars would take about 37 hours. A trip to Neptune – the furthest planet from Earth – would take about 18 days.

Also read: Seven lesser known facts about Chandra observatory of NASA

To compare , it took Voyager 2 about 12 years to get to Neptune, and NASA says it takes roughly 260 days to get Mars using current technology.

Since the time requirement for space travel within our own Solar System is one of the many limiting factors for us humans, throwing around ideas to circumvent the traditional approach is the only way space technology could be revolutionized!

Also read:

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Planet found in habitable zone around Proxima Centuari

This article was sourced from here