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Future Tech: Can black holes be used to power interstellar spacecraft?

21 Aug 2019, 13:52 UTC
Future Tech: Can black holes be used to power interstellar spacecraft?
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An artist’s impression of a spacecraft near Alpha Centauri. Image credit: Adrian Mann
Interstellar distances are difficult to conceive. Our nearest star is Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf 4.3 light years away. That’s more than 266,000 times the distance from Earth to the Sun and if our fastest spacecraft, Voyager 1, which is flying at 18 kilometres (11 miles) per second, were headed that way it would still take 80,000 years to get there. For humans to be able to explore the galaxy we are going to need another way to travel, but while the focus has been on the propulsion side of the puzzle, equally challenging is how we power such journeys. But there’s a strange concept that might solve both problems: the Schwarzschild Kugelblitz, a craft powered by a black hole.
To make interstellar journeys in a reasonable time we will have to achieve a good per cent of the speed of light (300,000,000 metres or 984,252,000 feet per second). For every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of mass that makes up the composition of a spacecraft and its payload, when travelling at 99.9 per cent the speed of light it will have a kinetic energy more than six times ...

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