Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Solving the spacecraft blackout

If you've studied space flight, or just watched Apollo 13, you know the scary moment when the plasma sheath around a reentering space craft cuts off all radio communications for three or four minutes.Aleksandr Korotkevich of the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow, though, thinks he can solve it. The trick is to turn the plasma sheath, which reflects away from of the RF energy but also absorbs some of it, into a giant antenna. No one knows if it will work until it's tried with an actual spacecraft, laboratory simulations notwithstanding, but it's very clever and just might solve a big problem.

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