If you were on an orbiting spacecraft, and wished to move to a higher orbit (further from Earth), the easiest way would be to use the Hohmann Transfer Orbit. A type of elliptical transfer orbit, two specific boosts of thrust can be utilized to move to a higher orbit.
The above diagram shows a Hohmann transfer orbit, and it shows a spacecraft leaving the initial orbit (labeled 1) and going to a higher circular orbit (labeled 3). 2 on the diagram, known as the transfer orbit, can be reached by boosting the engine and accelerating - this adds energy to the orbit. When is reaches the destination orbit, 2, and maintains it - the boosters must be turned on again in order to change up to 3. These two boosts save much more fuel than a single large burst (in fact, about 141% less fuel is used with the Hohmann Transfer Orbit.)
Non-profit group Icarus Interstellar is devoted to finding a way to travel to another star system and they believe the future is in solar sails; these feats of engineering would be 100 kilometers or larger and could make an interstellar voyage in 1,000 years. While this may seem like a long time to you and I, it is certain that if one were launched, someone would be on the receiving end of the radio-transmitter for the 1,000 years to come. The group believes that solar sails are the future as fusion power has not yet been developed to a usable extent, and the other alternative, anti-matter rockets, suffer from a serious design flaw and a lack of fuel.
Solar sails aren’t as new as you may think, nor are they a piece of speculative science fiction. There have been mentions of such a device as far back as Johannes Kepler, James Maxwell, Jules Verne, Albert Einstein and many others, and as a proof of concept in 2010 Japan launched the first interplanetary spacecraft with solar a solar sail as a primary propulsion system, IKAROS. IKAROS deployed a 200m2 solar sail and spent 6 months travelling to Venus and then begun its three-year journey to the far side of the Sun.
It has been calculated with a few assumptions that the maximum thrust available to a craft would be 0.01 Newtons. This is very small, but when taken to account of an extended period of time, this could amount to a velocity much greater than that provided by any conventional rocket. In order to further the research in this area NASA plans to launch a spacecraft, Sunjammer, in 2014 which will feature the largest solar sail to date which will measure 38m across.
Mary Sherman Morgan (1921 – 2004) was a U.S. rocket fuel scientist credited with the invention of the liquid fuel Hydyne in 1957, which powered the Jupiter-C rocket that boosted the United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1.
During Morgan’s college education, World War II broke out. As a result of men going overseas, the United States soon developed a shortage of chemists and other scientists. A local employment recruiter heard that Sherman had some experience with chemistry, and offered her a job at a local factory in Cleveland. He would not tell her what product the factory made, or what her job would be—only that she would be required to obtain a ‘top secret’ security clearance. Short on money, she decided to take the job even though it would mean having to postpone her degree. The job turned out to be at the Plum Brook Ordnance Works munitions factory, charged with the responsibility of manufacturing explosives trinitrotoluene (TNT), dinitrotoluene (DNT), and pentolite. The site produced more than one billion pounds of ordnance throughout World War II.
After spending the war years designing explosives for the military, she applied for a job at North American Aviation, and was employed in their Rocketdyne Division, Soon after being hired, she was promoted to Theoretical Performance Specialist, a job that required her to mathematically calculate the expected performance of new rocket propellants. Out of nine hundred engineers, she was the only woman, and one of only a few without a college degree.
During the Space Race era, Morgan was named the technical lead for developing new rocket propellants. Morgan’s work resulted in a new invention, Hydyne, a propellant that succeeded in launching America’s first satellite, Explorer I, into orbit on January 31, 1958. Despite its importance to the Explorer launch, the U.S. quickly switched to more powerful fuels and Hydyne was used only once