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posted by LaminatorX on Thursday September 03 2015, @05:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the freight-train-hopping-IN-SPAAAAAACE! dept.

Traveling around space can be hard and require a lot of fuel, which is part of the reason NASA has a spacecraft concept that would hitch a free ride on one of the many comets and asteroids speeding around our solar system at 22,000 miles per hour (on the slow end). Comet Hitchhiker, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, would feature a reusable tether system to replace the need for propellant for entering orbit and landing on objects.

The spacecraft would first cast an extendable tether toward the object and attach itself using a harpoon attached to the tether. Next, it would reel out the tether while applying a brake that harvests energy while the spacecraft accelerates. This allows Comet Hitchhiker to accelerate and slowly match the speed of its ride, and keeping that slight tension on the line harvests energy that is stored on-board for later use, reeling itself down to the surface of the comet or asteroid. A comet hitchhiker spacecraft can obtain up to ~10 km/s of delta-V by using a carbon nanotube (CNT) tether, reaching the current orbital distance of Pluto (32.6 AU) in just 5.6 years.

Unfortunately rocket scientists apparently don't read SN, or they'd know from discussions last year that it simply won't work. It seems that the idea defies "basic orbital mechanics" and "makes no sense".

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  • (Score: 2) by Snow on Thursday September 03 2015, @07:22PM

    by Snow (1601) on Thursday September 03 2015, @07:22PM (#231911) Journal []

    There was a game for Sega Genesis called Skitchin' that you had to get around town by hanging onto cars. It was actually a pretty fun game.

    My armchair analysis seems to think that the deta-v might be too great for a tether. Just some napkin calculations suggest that even if your tether is 100km long, then the craft would be subjected to 50Gs of acceleration.

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  • (Score: 2) by soylentsandor on Saturday September 05 2015, @07:24AM

    by soylentsandor (309) on Saturday September 05 2015, @07:24AM (#232538)

    the craft would be subjected to 50Gs of acceleration

    No worries there: the cable would simply snap :)

    But apart from that, they claim it could be up to 620 miles long, that's 1000km in the rest of the world. Which would reduce the acceleration to 5G. Still quite a bit but feasible. As for the rest of the ingredients, I'm not so sure those are all that feasible. But one can dream. And research. And that might even result in something valuable.