Pekka Janhunen, Finnish Meteorological Institute (Finland)
Electric Solar Wind Sail
Abstract: How to transport spacecraft to planetary and other targets in our Solar System is a long-standing problem that concerns space activities. In 2006, a surprising and serendepitous theoretical solution to this problem was found as a byproduct of basic space plasma physics research. This so-called Electric Solar Wind Sail (E-sail) is an apparatus that uses the natural solar wind as a source of thrust. According to numerical estimates, in certain tasks the E-sail has the potential to beat existing methods (chemical rockets and ion engines) by a factor of 100-1000 in efficiency. Taking the E-sail from the theoretical, academic idea to a finished space technology product is a complex task which is now about midway: we are building and testing laboratory prototypes of the key components of the E-sail and seeking for launch opportunities for a test satellite in the solar wind.
Biography: Dr. Pekka Janhunen is the inventor of the E-sail and its principal developer. He works at the Finnish Meteorological Institute as a Research Manager. Before inventing the E-sail he was active in developing numerical simulations for modelling space plasma phenomena such as the Northern Lights and used ground-based and satellite data for studying them. He has authored about 120 peer-reviewed scientific papers.