Solar sails revisited

http://space.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn11375&feedId=online-news_rss20

Some ideas for how to use magnetic fields to power satellites and space craft. Basically, a charge in a changing magnetic field (or a moving charge in a static magnetic field) produces a current. Use that to power up a capacitor and then use that energy to run your systems. The moving charge is generated by radioisotopes attached to the capacitor material, so it generates power constantly. They plan to use a device like a sail (probably folded up into a sock-like geometry) with large surface area. Change the surface area or geometry to alter the capacitance and thus regulate the power generation.

You could use that to accelerate or brake as you travel, and Jupiter (with its bigger magnetic fields) could serve as the depot where space stations and ships hang out/get built before being sent off on missions.

Good inspiration for writers, and something I’ll use in my Science in Science Fiction talk at Writer’s Weekend later this month.

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