A concept spacecraft designed to carry humans and cargo from Earth to Mars in mere days could help mankind colonize the stars, but there’s just one problem: it never stops.
The most difficult problem of traveling through space is when the craft accelerates and decelerates, especially if there’s a lot of cargo or people traveling around the solar system.
That’s why the Solar Express space train engineers designed their craft to run-nonstop between designated stops on planets and space stations, according to ImaginActive.
“Once the train reached its cruising speed, its energy consumption would be minimal. It would never stop; instead, space wagons / capsules would rendezvous with it.”
The concept space train vehicle is the brainchild of Charles Bombardier and Olivier Peraldi and was designed as part of an Imaginactive project to inspire future generations to create a space travel network.
The Solar Express space train would be constructed from six detachable cylinders that could be swapped out in-light by maintenance robots; each capsule would be divided into four cargo bays.
At first, it would use rocket boosters to accelerate out into space and approach the speed of light at 1,865 miles per second; it would use onboard fuel to make needed course corrections, Bombardier told Forbes.
“In space, the most expensive portions of travel are the acceleration and deceleration phases.”
The train would use ion thrusters to accelerate to 1 percent the speed of light. As it approached planets and moons it would use gravity to gain speed and slingshot around the celestial body as it continued further into deep space. Humans and their cargo would board the space train in space wagons launched from the planet, moon or space station they happen to be on.
These space wagons would need to match the speed of the Solar Express in order to dock; the faster the train is moving, the more expensive catching it would be, according to ImaginActive.
“As you can imagine, the cost per ton is important, much like parcel shipping services.”
Bombardier envisions the Solar Express as part of a larger space travel network between Earth, Mars and distant planets like the newly discovered Proxima b.
Huge solar arrays on the outside of the space train would supply the electricity needed to run the craft, but it needs to be resupplied with food and water harvested from nearby comets and asteroids and supplied by local space stations.
An asteroid mining company named Deep Space Industries is already developing the technology needed to extract the raw resources from space rocks.
Humans living and traveling on the Solar Express would live in a space city, which would rotate around the detachable cylinders at the center of the vehicle to provide artificial gravity.
The space train would be equipped with heavy fore and aft shielding to protect it from dangerous asteroids and the concept vehicle would be accompanied by a fleet of drones that could capture passing space rocks the crew would mine for resources.
The first Solar Express space train could start running between Earth and the moon with the trip estimated to take seven hours because the vehicle would be easier to assemble in low gravity, Bombardier told Forbes.
“And Mars seems to be a good candidate for the next phase, especially if we can terraform it.”
The Solar Express space train is still a concept and probably won’t be available for use for several years, Bombardier told NextBigFuture.
“Obviously, there is a lot to consider, starting with dimensions, masses, speed, energy, etc. How do you control such a complex vehicle? The Solar Express is a basic idea and we would like to know how we could improve it.”
What do you think of the Solar Express and the unstoppable space train?
[Image via Shutterstock]