Centauri Dreams reports on the Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop David Kirtley (MSNW LLC) spoke on the concept of ‘Macron Propulsion’, an idea that involves firing small fuel pellets in front of a spacecraft which would then be utilized by that craft for fuel. This ingenious, yet complex approach is attractive, since it overcomes the Rocket Equation as the fuel is not stored onboard the craft. The talk had very interesting parallels to the Daedalus electromagnetic pellet launcher. MSNW has built and is currently testing a 20 Tesla launcher and also a prototype pulsed power bank.
Recent advances in energy storage and solid-state switching enabled the use of peristaltic, pulsed inductive acceleration of non-ferritic particles for spacecraft propulsion. Macron Launched Propulsion (MLP) systems electromagnetically accelerate gramsized aluminum particles (i.e. macrons) to achieve exit velocities between 5 and 10km/s, achieving specific impulses between 600 and 1,000s. Research was conducted to analyze this system’s potential effects on the orbital debris environment as well as to formulate possible implementations of this technology. Ultimately, the direction, velocity and altitude at which these macrons are fired determine the macron’s trajectory and dictate the level of impact upon the orbital debris environment. Research supports the implementation of the technology as a multi-purpose orbital maneuvering system but cautions the use of this system in a manner that could result macrons entering into a stable Earth orbital trajectory.
To take advantage of the smaller scale, higher density regime of Magneto-Inertial Fusion (MIF) an efficient and repeatable method for achieving the compressional heating required to reach fusion gain conditions is needed. The macro-particle (macron) formed liner compression of the field reversed configuration (FRC) provides such a method. The approach to be described employs an assemblage of small, gram scale, macrons to form a more massive liner that both radially and axially compresses and heats the FRC plasmoid to fusion conditions. The large liner energy (several MJ) required to compress the FRC is carried in the kinetic energy of the full array of macrons. The much smaller energy required for each individual macron is obtained by accelerating the macron to ~3 km/s which can be accomplished remotely using conventional inductive techniques. 3D numerical calculations demonstrate that macron convergence can form a coherent liner provided minimum velocity and timing accuracy is met. Experimental results have demonstrated that a cylindrical or spherical macron can be accelerated to velocity within 2 m/s and timing less than 1 microsecond. Initial testing of a 6-stage launcher yielded 280 m/s at a final coupling efficiency of greater than 40%.
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