The Limitless Space Institute had a report from its Interstellar Initiative Grant recipients. One of the presenters is from the University of Albama who are working on a sub-kilowatt system to generate nuclear fusion pulses for propulsion.
Dr. Jason Cassibry, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and an assistant research professor at the UAH Propulsion Research Center (PRC), has been studying fusion and pulsed fission/fusion hybrid (PuFF) propulsion systems for 10 years in collaboration with his NASA colleagues.
They received a $143,000 inaugural Interstellar Initiative Grants award from the Limitless Space Institute (LSI).
They are working with a 60 kilojoule device that generates z-pinches. They are working on experiments that will generate neutrons and then optimize and improve the sensors and the pulse generating systems.
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10 thoughts on “Near Term Pulsed Fusion Propulsion”
The story here about 500 fold increase in bonds…chemonuclear…that’s the path to NSWR…jacketed thrust and autophage rocket designs
Given that there is a low level of radioactive isotopes just about everywhere (C14 in carbon dioxide for example) your home reactor is probably putting out a calculable net positive output.
Shouldn't we be working on space propulsion that is not pie in the sky, like Orion pulse drives or Zubrin nuclear salt water rockets? No real physics or materials hurdles to design and production, and I doubt the fusion drive would provide a significantly superior propulsion than these (my math is hazy on this point, please correct me if that is incorrect).
Yes, I'd say that the gravitational and magnetic effects of Earth are insignificant in terms of plasma containment, but the primary advantage is that lab space on Earth is cheaper and has access to the grid. And the commute is easier.
I will admit access to a large vacuum chamber is easier in space.
So, what you're saying is, in your view the gravitational and magnetic effects of Earth have no affect on trying to contain plasma in a fusion reactor… And that fusion research would receive no benefit from -100° C and lower temps that are easily achievable in space?
I also have a breakeven "reactor" in my home.
It's putting out the exact amount of energy I'm putting into it. With zero losses.
Safer? Maybe. Easier? Hardly.
This is the kind of project that will probably never go beyond PowerPoint and see the light of day, if things don't change in the space industry.
These rockets still require important technology developments, yet to be proven, while being meant for missions with high mass, high Isp going to the Outer Solar system. The kind of multidecadal missions politicians give lip service but seldom commit to finance and do.
It's not that the science or physics of it are impossible. It's rather the way we organize ourselves to fund and make these projects the one that doesn't work.
We need to see a strong shift in human activities in space, first in cost of launch and next on actual needs in space, to see someone seriously building one of these.
My feeling is it will take decades of intense work with "traditional" approaches (chemical rockets) to see the emergence of a new space industry, and then, when the cost and slots for launching the experiment is not the main concern, we will see a successful program, private or otherwise, testing rockets like this.
It's that or very small scale demonstrators in the lab, but those tend to work not that well, specially for fusion.
It might be easier and safer to get it working in space first.
Before launching into pie in the sky dreams, get it to work on earth first.
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