Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Sailing in SPAAACE.... the RULES

The last post included a video that described how to sail in space using solar sails. But if you had two such craft then you could race... but what would the rules look like?

Back in 1992 the International Astronautical Federation proposed a Lunar Cup with a set of rules but I couldn't find them on-line but wondered.... what would they look like? How could port give way to starboard when in space neither concepts make sense?

An alternative could be to use the direction of motion of planets as in:

R1: Solar sail craft which has a thrust vector that when projected into the plane of the ecliptic has component clockwise must give way to those for which it is anti-clockwise (see graphic here)

But what about if they are in the same direction, what is the equivalent of windward / leeward? This is simpler as the solar sail thrust comes from photons from the sun, so that is the equivalent of windward, hence:

R2: Solar sail craft closer to the sun must give way to spacecraft further away

But what if they are on the same "tack" and same distance from the sun. The old rule remains a good one:

R3: Overtaking solar sail craft must give way to those being overtaken

There'd have to be the usual rules for safety of life, keeping watch etc. but also additional ones to handle eclipses, where a spacecraft is behind a planet so has no ability to maneuver, but similar rules to sailing could be used.

But how about marks? How could you define a course in 3D when everything is in motion?

Stay tuned for more...

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