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The
  Webfooted Astronomer

November 2000


Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion—This Isn't Star Trek!

By Mary Ingersoll
November Meeting

Dr. Robert Winglee
Geophysics Department
Wednesday, November 15
7:30 p.m.

A-102 Physics-Astronomy Bldg.
University of Washington

Come early at 7 p.m. to visit with your fellow members.

Bring your slides for after the program.

DR. Robert Winglee, UW Geophysics Department, will speak at the Nov. 15 SAS meeting on his Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion (M2P2) concept that is being funded by NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts.

Dr. Winglee's design uses the solar wind and a magnetically confined cloud of particles to propel spacecraft at very high speeds. The spacecraft has electrical coils that generate a magnetic field of about 1,000 times the strength of Earth's field. A plasma of ionized helium atoms and electrons filling the container would then be spewed gradually into space. The expelled particles would drag the magnetic field along, creating a magnetic bubble some 30 to 40 kilometers in diameter, enveloping the craft.

Dr. Winglee calculates that a spacecraft weighing a modest 136kg could attain speeds of 288,000 km/h. At that velocity a craft could fly from Seattle to New York in 10 seconds, and the edge of the solar system in 10 years. A spacecraft launched by 2008 could catch up to Voyager 1, which left Earth 22 years ago. Adding dust particles to the magnetic bubble would enhance the thrust, and accelerate the M2P2 even faster for a mission to another star.

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