This new propulsion system will take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in just 20 years

Breakthrough Starshot, an international scientific effort, has revealed its plans to launch a probe to Alpha Centauri, our closest star system, and may reach its destination in just 20 years.

Breakthrough Starshot plans to design and test a new form of spacecraft propulsion system that uses a light sail and array of laser beams to achieve the enormous speeds needed for interstellar travel in our lifetimes, according to a news release from the company. Australian National University (ANU). ).

Preview To reach Alpha Centauri, Starshot's ultralight spacecraft will have to travel four light years. To put it another way, our nearest neighboring star system is 40,208,000,000,000 miles away.

The fastest and most reliable technology for long-range space travel today is the ion thruster, which propels NASA's DART mission toward an asteroid at 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h). However, NASA states that using an ion thruster would take 18,000 years or about 2,700 human generations to reach Alpha Centauri.

However, NASA states that using an ion thruster would take 18,000 years or about 2,700 human generations to reach Alpha Centauri.

The Breakthrough Starshot team says its spacecraft can fly to Alpha Centauri in less than 20 years with the help of ground-based lasers. Assuming the space probe reaches its target, it will return the first photographs of another solar system, providing a rare glimpse of distant Earth-like worlds.

ANU researchers outlined their proposal in a recent research study aimed at making travel to Alpha Centauri feasible. The team is building a small probe with a light sail powered by a set of ground-based lasers. An intergalactic laser array will focus millions of beams on the sail, allowing it to travel at astonishing speeds.

To go between Alpha Centauri and our own solar system, we need to think outside the box, says Dr Bandutunga of the Applied Metrology Laboratory at the ANU Center for Gravitational Astrophysics.

"Once en route, the sail will fly in the vacuum of space for 20 years before reaching its destination. During its flyby of Alpha Centauri, it will record images and scientific measurements that it will transmit back to Earth."

Breakthrough Starshot and the ANU team rely on the evolution of many important technologies to create their spacecraft. Glow candles, for example, have recently been shown to be a feasible way to travel into space. LightSail 2, a spacecraft inspired by Carl Sagan, successfully raised its orbital path around Earth 3.2 kilometers in 2019 using a light sail, or solar sail, powered by photons from the Sun.

The key obstacle will be the ANU team's cutting-edge laser array plan, which would require millions of lasers to synchronize.

"The Breakthrough Starshot program estimates that the total optical power required is about 100 GW, about 100 times the capacity of the largest battery in the world today," says Dr. Ward, of the Research School of Physics at the ANU. "To achieve this, we estimate that approximately 100 million lasers will be needed."

The ANU team suggests employing a 'laser guide' satellite in Earth orbit to keep its lasers pointed exactly at the glow sail during the journey. With an algorithm to pre-correct the light from the array, this will adapt to the atmospheric distortion that other ground-based lasers would endure.

According to Dr. Bandutunga, "The next step is to start testing some of the basic components in a controlled laboratory environment. This includes the concepts for combining small assemblies to create larger assemblies and the atmospheric correction algorithms."

As well as being part of a global partnership, the ANU team is only focusing on one aspect of the big project.

Breakthrough Starshot is one of Yuri Milner's Breakthrough Initiatives, a set of scientific and technological efforts aimed at finding life outside our solar system. If the glow sail prototype is successful, it could reach the planets around our nearest star, Alpha Centauri, within our lifetime. The success of the project would thus elevate humans to the status of an interstellar species.


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