Earlier this year, Charles Bombardier dreamt up a way to travel between continents at hypersonic speed (think New York to Dubai in 22 minutes). But now he’s set his sights on something much bigger. Pushing the limits of his imagination out of this world, the Montreal-based innovator has envisioned Solar Express—a futuristic train designed to ferry goods and passengers between celestial bodies and space stations.
Using the force of gravity to slingshot around planets and moons, the locomotive—designed in collaboration with industrial engineer Olivier Péraldi—would remain in constant motion similar to a ski lift, with smaller vehicles locking onto it along the way.
The train would comprise of a series 50-meter-long cylinders placed end to end, with each capsule divided into four cargo bays that maintenance robots could swap in-flight. “A large ‘space city’ would rotate around the longitudinal axis and provide artificial gravity inside so that humans could walk and live there during the long months of travelling,” Bombardier notes.
The configuration, class, and function of each car would vary, though rest areas would likely fall towards the middle of the craft, where gravity has less of an effect. The center would also contain a zero-gravity area, where certain experiments could be held, while outer zones with normal gravity would cater to human activities.
The craft would initially launch with the help of rocket boosters and use stored fuel to make any necessary course adjustments. Its speed would vary depending on its size and purpose, though would reach upwards of 3,000 km/s (or 1% the speed of light).
“In space, the most expensive portions of travel are the acceleration and deceleration phases,” he explains. “The energy required is tremendous, but once the train reached its cruising speed, its power consumption would be minimal.”
Outfitted with reinforced front and aft shields, the vessel would be accompanied by a fleet of drones equipped with missiles or lasers that would zap any meteoroids threatening to throw it off course.
Solar energy drawn by arrays situated along the locomotive’s path may be used to power lighting and appliances, while water for passenger use would be collected from comets and moons. “The water could also be used to create hydrogen and propellant,” which could be used as a fuel alternative, he says. And asteroids captured en route could be exploited for their mineral resources.
As for the maximum distance the train could journey, “There is no limit,” Bombardier asserts. He reckons the first ship would shuttle cargo and travelers between Earth and the Moon—a trip that would take roughly seven hours to complete at the ideal speed of 15 km/s. “The Moon will serve as a launching pad for other projects, because it is easier to assemble and build this kind of train in the absence of gravity,” he says. “And Mars seems to be a good candidate for the next phase, especially if we can terraform it.”
Though intriguing, the notion begs many questions, and likely won’t be viable for eons. “Obviously there is a lot to consider,” the designer admits. ”The general purpose here is to devise a system to transport minerals, materials, and humans from one place to the other in our solar system. Solar Express is a basic idea, and we would like to know how we could improve it.”
Travel Times Onboard the Solar Express (at max distance between celestial bodies and at max speed, or 3,000 km/s):
- Earth to the Moon (384,472.28 km) → 2.13 minutes
- Earth to the Sun (152 million km) → 14.07 hours
- Earth to Venus (261 million km) → 24.17 hours
- Earth to Mars (401 million km) → 37.13 hours
- Earth to Neptune (4.7 billion km) → 18.13 days
This post was written by Usman Abrar. To contact the writer write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Facebook