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New concept: What about if we are to depend from external forces? So we cannot produce any kind of propulsion from our ship.

Previous question:

I know that there are two main ways to gain speed in the emptiness of space. One is by burning fuel and therefor accelerating the spaceship. The other one is by using slingshot effects (gravity assists) where the spaceship gets a boost in speed. Are there any other ways to gain speed in empty space?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you really mean in a vacuum? If the space was truly empty there wouldn't be a source of gravity for an assist. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 27 '17 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ If you are in truly empty space, the easiest way to gain speed is to simply recast your state from the perspective of a moving coordinate system in which you already have more speed. Note: may not be useful when in orbit around something. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Oct 12 '17 at 21:06
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By "burning fuel" you probably mean usage of the law of conservation of momentum. So you should just throw away something - not necessary gases of burning fuel, but probably radiation, or accelerate gas by electro magnetic field like in Ion thruster or just explode atomic bombs like in Nuclear pulse propulsion

Another option is Solar Sail - by using Sun radiation pressure

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You could go around planets in order to gain in speed. This is called gravitational assist or the slingshot effect, where the orbital speed of the moving planet boosts up your final velocity and modifies your direction.

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Along with burning fuel and slingshot you mention there are a few more ways for increasing speed, either used already or in theory for consideration.

One of the methods used is ionized discharge. The way it differs from conventional propulsion system where chemical reaction of combustion process pushes the vehicle in the opposite direction is that the ion exhaust is created from electric power moving things forward.

Other methods could be the Hall Effect. Getting electrons in space is easier than carrying chemical fuel for further use.

There are other more exciting way of getting momentum in space currently under research that Wikipedia lists.

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  • $\begingroup$ Someone please edit my answer above for better formatting and grammar fix. My handheld device somehow denying me to input efficiently... $\endgroup$
    – A. Bauani
    Aug 27 '17 at 13:30
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In addition to solar sails already mentioned, you could also shine a strong laser on a solar sail from the point of departure ( or any other point in space, really ), thus being able to go in a different direction than Solar pressure.

Also depending on if there is a magnetosphere nearby, electrodynamic tethers work basically in a similar way as an electric motor does. Magnetic torque rods are routinely used for attitude control on small spacecraft, but the principle can be used also to gain kinetic energy.

Generally, most spacecraft propulsion methods are listed in Wikipedia

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