Current state of the art in-space propulsion systems based on chemical or ion propellants fail to meet requirements of 21st century space missions. Antimatter is a candidate mechanism for a propulsion system that could transport humans and/or robotic systems with drastically reduced transit times, providing quicker scientific results, increasing the payload mass to allow more capable instruments and larger crews, and reducing the overall mission cost.
Unfortunately, previous propulsion concepts relied on unrealistic amounts of trapped antimatter – orders of magnitude away from any near-term capability. The goal of this effort is to determine the feasibility of a (TRL 1-2) radioisotope positron catalyzed fusion propulsion concept that does not rely on trapped antimatter. Such a transformative technology inspires and drives further innovation within the aerospace community and can be applied to a relevant mission – the bulk retrieval of an entire asteroid into translunar space – a mission of great scientific and commercial interest (e.g. asteroid mining). The idea of harnessing resources from asteroids goes back more than a century to Tsiolkovsky. Fundamentally, for asteroid mining to become financially viable, the cost of the retrieval spacecraft must be less than the value gained from the asteroid. Therefore, developing technology (e.g. efficient propulsion systems) that decreases the mass and complexity of the retrieval spacecraft must be a priority.
Working towards antimatter powered cubesat
Antimatter is the most energy dense material in the universe. Positron dynamics core innovations is the ability to generate intense beams of cold positrons using an array of moderators. They use a radioisotope as a source of positrons. They react the gamma particles to get a charged ion which they direct with magnetic fields for propulsion.
Rocket engines based on this would have exhaust at 10% of the speed of light.
They are initially targeting hyperefficient propulsion for cubesats and other orbital satellites.
The moderator device — which measures a tiny 3×3 millimeters — uses several layers of silicon carbide film to extract individual positrons and an electric field to cause the particles to drift to the surface of each layer, where they can cool.
* fusion reactions will be used to transfer the kinetic energy of the gamma-ray producing positron beam into charged particles.
* Positron Dynamics should be reporting on laboratory demonstration of “scalable” thrust using positrons in tests that already were tried this year.
* Positron-powered launch of small “cubesat” satellite into low-Earth orbit, demonstrating orbital change from positron propulsion. mid-2018 to mid-2019.
* Use propulsion system could be used in satellite constellations, for example — as part of a global network of broad-band internet, enabling virtually anyone on the planet access to the internet during the 2020s
* Launch of another rocket to further demonstrate the feasibility of positrons to power a spacecraft in about early 2020 and follow by a succession of other unmanned spacecraft over a period of years
* Launch of a positron-propelled spacecraft to Mars. In the 2030s.
Correction – had indicated that $1.5 million had been raised for Positron Dynamics on Propelx –
Propelx is still raising the $1.5 million bridge round for Positron Dynamics. It is over 80% raised. Accredited investors can still contribute to Positron Dynamics.
In Jan 2017, Propel(x), the online angel investment platform that helps investors source, evaluate, and fund pioneering science and technology startups, has been raising $1.5 million for Positron Dynamics.
In March 2017, Gabrielle, with new ExB plates, ready to do battle with energetic positrons!
In February they were working a billion positrons per second.