Studies in Space Exploration (HET610)

Keeping Watch on the Sun

The Sun is far from a dormant ball of gas. Its surface seethes with activity including sunspots, solar flares and prominences, which send plasma arcing many thousands of kilometres above the Sun's surface. An essentially continuous stream of charged particles, called the solar wind, emanates from the Sun at velocities in the order of 300 to 800 kilometres per second [1]. Normal solar activity poses little threat to the Earth because of the protection a afforded by Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere. However, from time to time there are massive outbursts when the Sun ejects tremendous amounts (109--1011 tonnes [2]) of hot, ionised gas outward at speeds as high as 1000 kilometres per second. These outbursts are called coronal mass ejections (CME) and are more likely during periods of high sunspot activity (approximately 11 year cycle). CMEs can cause disruption of satellite systems and radio communications on Earth approximately 40 to 50 hours after emission. In extreme cases, such as during an event in March 1989 affecting Quebec's power supply, electricity grids and other ground-based electrical systems can be crippled. Given the potential disruption to Earth, it is important that advance warning of CME activity is available to allow damage limitation activity to take place. This essay examines a space-based early warning system to be placed at one of the Earth-Sun Lagrange points, and to operate for two solar activity cycles (25 years).
Keeping Watch on the Sun Essay PDF

Human Spaceflight

Ever since Yuri Gagarin took the fist human step into space on 12 April 1961 humans have been making the journey into outer space. In contrast to the heady pioneering days, space flight seems almost routine now. However, space flight was, and remains, a hazardous enterprise. Some of the dangers are plain enough, just look at the power of a rocket or fiery re-entry, but the majority are less obvious. This project looks at the hazards faced by those who make, or will make, a trip off the planet.
Human Spaceflight Project PDF