Inventor Comes Up With A Space Train Concept That Can Get Us to Mars In Under 2 Days

Zarmeen Shahzad
Posted Aug 30, 2016
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A Montreal based innovator, Charles Bombardier has revealed a concept for a hypothetical space train, ‘Solar Express’ that is faster than the existing systems and can shuttle passengers and payloads between planets. If this train ever becomes a reality, Bombardier and his team foresee that the train will be able to travel at approximately 1% the speed of light, at 3000 km per sec. This means that the travel time between Earth and Mars will be less than two days!

Bombardier said on Solar Express site, “In space, the most expensive portions of travel are the acceleration and deceleration phases. The energy required for those portions is tremendous, especially for something as heavy as a space train. In addition, if you were to start hauling cargo, it would become very expensive. However, once the train reached its cruising speed, its energy consumption would be minimal. That’s the idea behind the Solar Express concept. It would never stop; instead, space wagons/capsules would rendezvous with it.”

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How does this work?

The train would consist of a series of cylinders of about 50 meters in length aligned together. Six among these would be linked together in a straight line and will move through space. You can consider these six cylinders as the train cars that exist in conventional trains.

Solar express is no doubt a very expensive way of travel. For the purpose of launch, it will use rocket boosters and will have a small amount of fuel for reserve purposes when it changes course. The train would hence be able to adjust its way around celestial bodies to gain speed and will not require more fuel.

Bombardier explained, “Huge solar arrays located along the train’s path could be used to capture solar energy and transfer it by laser to super capacitors. Water harvested from comets or small moons would be used for humans living on the train and transported to other stations. The harvested water could also be used to create hydrogen and propellant, but the main propulsion system should take the form of an ion thruster.”

Once this train is in motion, it will never stop. Smaller crafts will join it as it orbits different planets and will gather supplies and offload passengers. This going forever concept will apparently cut costs but the up-front construction costs are high.

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There are still a lot of technicalities that need to be addressed, such as how the shuttles will offload goods from the moving vehicle, how to make it so fast and how to control such a high speeding vehicle. “Obviously, there is a lot to consider, starting with dimensions, masses, speed, energy, etc. How do you control such a complex vehicle?” Bombardier said. “The Solar Express is a basic idea and we would like to know how we could improve it.”

Possibilities: A 130x Speed Up in Space Travel

If you can imagine what a real Solar Express would be like, the prospects are insane. Krtin Tablang from Forbes said that a trip from earth to mars will take about 37 hours, from earth to the moon it will take just 213 minutes and if we want to go to Neptune it will take just 18 days. If you think 18 days are a lot, let me remind you that it took Voyager 2 about 12 years to get to Neptune. According to what NASA tells us, it takes them about 260 days just to get to Mars if it uses the technology currently available. Imagine the possibilities if such a train actually did exist, they are endless.

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