Under the auspices of NASA build a fusion space engine

Original author: Iain Thomson
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NASA and private companies are eager to send humanity to Mars. The team at the University of Washington, funded by the space agency, in turn intends to develop a thermonuclear engine that can deliver a person to the Red Planet in 30 days, as well as make other space travel possible.

“Using existing rocket fuel, it’s almost impossible for humanity to explore something beyond Earth,” says lead researcher John Slough. “We hope to get enough energy to make interplanetary travel a routine.”

The proposed Fusion Driven Rocket (FDR) is a 150-ton ship engine that uses magnetism to compress lithium or aluminum parts around a deuterium-tritium fuel core to initiate fusion. The resulting reaction force causes the substance to disperse at a speed of 30 km / s, and it pushes the ship forward.

Spent fuel is thrown out of the ship and since the whole process is based on magnetism, engine wear is minimal. At the same time, a grain-sized pellet can provide the same amount of momentum as a gallon of rocket fuel.

All of this requires electrical energy to control and maintain the reaction, but engineer Anthony Pankokti claims that the benefits of such a magnetic motor are that a spaceship can only feed itself with solar energy.

“It is very scalable - we can achieve a thermonuclear reaction on a much smaller scale,” he says. “We can start the created engine from a 200 kilowatt solar panel, i.e. approximately the same power that the ISS panels are now generating. ”

Using FDR, the flight time to Mars can be reduced to 30-90 days, compared with 8 months of flight on a "chemical" traction. For a 30-day journey, you only need a three-day run of the engine to accelerate and another three days to slow it down in the orbit of Mars.

Such an engine will also be significantly cheaper at the acceleration stage than chemical rockets, since it requires much less fuel to overcome Earth's gravity. For the proposed 150-ton structure, about a third can be occupied by cargo, and a reduced flight time will also reduce the effect of radiation on astronauts.

Many space flights end up braking about the atmosphere to save fuel. The new drive, however, is so effective that such braking becomes meaningless, since the mass of protection will be greater than the mass of fuel consumed.

The team has tested all parts of the FDR in the laboratory and is now starting to build the engine as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, which provides funding for long-term space programs. FDR is one of 10 projects that reached the Second Stage. The FDR prototype will be created in the next year and a half, and they hope to create the finished ship by 2020 - but with an increase in funding, the terms can be shortened.

Given the tough economies of the US Government, this is unlikely, but the FDR can make chemical or ion engines as obsolete as the steam engine now seems to be obsolete.

From the translator : Colleagues, in terms of errors, it is quite possible that if something is wrong - write, I will gladly fix it.

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