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Photon drive spacecraft, animation

K005/5732

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Credit

RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Photon drive spacecraft, animation. This is a theoretical spacecraft that would be propelled using the momentum of the photons in a laser beam. A sail-like, thin membrane would be the target for the laser. As the photons reflect off the sail, the momentum transfer would slowly but surely send the sail and attached spacecraft accelerating outwards. The acceleration would be very low but continuous, eventually allowing very high speeds to be attained. This method has long been proposed as one of the ways to send spacecraft to nearby stars, but usually involving relatively large spacecraft. In 2016, a programme was launched to develop this technology to send computer-chip sized spacecraft to nearby stars with a journey time of 30 years, reaching around 20 percent of the speed of light.

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Downloadable Master

  • Duration: 00:00:16.02
  • Audio: No
  • Format: Photo - JPEG

Original

  • Capture Format: QuickTime Animation
  • Codec: H.264
  • Interlaced: No
  • Frame Size: 1920 x 1080

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