Sci/Tech Space 'spiderwebs' could propel future probes

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A new type of solar sail has been woven by a team of scientists in Finland.

The spiderweb-like sail is designed to catch the wind of ionised gas that blows from the Sun, carrying spacecraft to the outer reaches of the solar system, or letting them tack back and forth through the asteroid belt on exploration or mining missions.

The new sail differs from the more conventional type of solar sail, which is designed use the gentle pressure of sunlight to move a spacecraft.

Instead of catching sunlight, Pekka Janhunen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki is aiming to sail using the solar wind, a tenuous plasma of electrons and positive ions blowing out through the solar system at speeds of hundreds of kilometres per second.


 
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