How To Move As Fast As A Comet.

I have been intrigued lately, especially with all the comet activity this year, as to how fast comets move, and why can’t we get our spacecraft to move that fast.

We all know about gravity assist for boosting spacecraft toward the outer solar system.  But how can we use this to gain comet speed?  This is intriguing to me because it would make interplanetary travel a better possibility.

Take comet ISON for instance.  ISON was first spotted 585 million miles away in September 2012, now a little over a year later, it is passing by the Sun.  ISON is traveling at 81,725 mph.

Compare that to the New Horizon spacecraft that set the record for the highest velocity of a human-made object from Earth at 36,373 mph.  New Horizon accomplished this using a combination of monopropellant and gravity assist,  and three planetary flybys (Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) over a five year period.

Although that is an impressive feat, five years to reach that speed is a bit too much for our purposes.

The theoretical fusion engine that would power a spacecraft to record speeds

Researchers at the University of Huntsville in Alabama are using “dilithium crystals” (deuterium, a stable Hydrogen isotope, and a Lithium isotope, Li6, arranged in a crystal structure) to generate a fusion reaction for a new engine.  This is the fusion impulse engine (like Star Trek) that would propel any spacecraft unattained speeds.

If it works, spacecraft powered by an engine like this could reach 62,600 mph in a relatively short distance.  That would make interplanetary travel possible without all the long duration issues that current engines have.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +


4 thoughts on “How To Move As Fast As A Comet.

  1. I’m also now intrigued by the comet issue …. I presume that in their Ort Cloud they are travelling at significant speed already, although not towards the sun – then get bumped and start their plunge sunward ?
    If they survive the solar journey and head back out do they maintain the speed or is it increased in some way …. And they return years later again at the speeds you mention.
    You would also have seen the Projects Daedalus and Icarus fusion concepts by the BIS – You get the feeling that an answer is there, very close. Wes

  2. When I was researching this topic, I found out that there are a lot of theories, but not too many facts. Our best information will come from New Horizons in the next couple of years. There are people that also don’t believe the Ort Cloud exists, but I haven’t looked too deeply into that yet.
    Right after I finished this, I was watching a Science Channel program where a scientist has a theoretical propulsion system using the exhaust gases from miniature black holes that can be created using solar power. That would be a kick.

    • Black holes does sound like an exotic system …. Must look for that information.
      Planning to start the search for Ison in the pre-dawn sky. Will let you know if I capture anything.

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