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



Enlarge (credit score: Haitong Yu | Getty Photos)
If Jason Benkoski is true, the trail to interstellar house begins in a delivery container tucked behind a laboratory excessive bay in Maryland. The setup appears like one thing out of a low-budget sci-fi movie: one wall of the container is lined with 1000’s 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 instrument 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 delivery container. Then he hit the sunshine swap.
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 staff simply demonstrated photo voltaic thermal propulsion, a beforehand theoretical kind of rocket engine that’s powered by the Solar’s warmth. They suppose it might be the important thing to interstellar exploration.
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