NASA-backed fusion engine could cut Mars trip down to 30 days

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#1 Posted by Aljosa23 (24623 posts) -

envy my country Canadian.Fightingfan
jelly as fook right now

Though to be quite honest, this is likely to go nowhere. A lot of these scientific breakthroughs you read/hear on the news don't end up going anywhere due to lack of funding or interest.

#2 Posted by strategyfn (334 posts) -

Sounds awesome. Hope I'm around still to see some of this cool stuff take shape. I would love for humanity to find a second earth and actually be able to reach it.

#3 Posted by Aljosa23 (24623 posts) -

NASA, and plenty of private individuals, want to put mankind on Mars. Now a team at the University of Washington, funded by the space agency, is about to start building a fusion engine that could get humans there in just 30 days and make other forms of space travel obsolete.

"Using existing rocket fuels, it's nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth," said lead researcher John Slough, a UW research associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics in a statement. "We are hoping to give us a much more powerful source of energy in space that could eventually lead to making interplanetary travel commonplace."

The proposed Fusion Driven Rocket (FDR) is a 150-ton system that uses magnetism to compress lithium or aluminum metal bands around a deuterium-tritium fuel pellet to initiate fusion. The resultant microsecond reaction forces the propellant mass out at 30 kilometers per second, and would be able to pulse every minute or so and not cause g-force damage to the spacecraft's occupants.

The spent fuel pellet is ejected behind the motor to provide propulsion, and because the whole process is magnetically controlled there's relatively little wear and tear on the engines. A pellet the size of a grain of sand would provide the same propellant as a gallon of conventional rocket fuel.

All this requires electrical power to control and contain the reaction, but Dr. Anthony Pancotti, an advanced propulsion engineer with the team, told The Register that the advantages of magnetic inertial confinement fusion (over that requiring massive lasers, for example) mean that the spacecraft could power itself on solar energy alone.

"It's very scalable; we can achieve fusion at a much smaller scale," he said. "We could run the designed engine off 200KW of solar panels, which is about the same power as generated by the panels around the International Space Station"

Using the FDR system, flight times to the Red Planet could take between 30 and 90 days, compared to over eight months that it took to send the Curiosity rover to Mars. The 30-day trip would require three days of engine operation to get the spacecraft up to speed and another three to slow it down into orbit around Mars.

Such a motor would also be considerably cheaper to launch than a chemical rocket system, since there is much less fuel to hoist out of the gravity well before it starts a trip. The proposed design for a 150-ton spacecraft would allow around a third of that mass to be used for cargo human or otherwise and the reduced flight time would reduce the exposure of astronauts to the effects of solar radiation.

Many space missions use aerobraking using the friction of a planet's atmosphere to slow down as a way of saving the propellant. This drive, however, is so efficient that aerobraking makes little sense, since the weight of the shielding needed for the maneuver is greater than the propellant FDR needs to slow down.

The team has tested all the parts of the FDR in the lab, and is now going to start building a fully working engine that brings these elements together, thanks to funding from NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, which aims to fund long-term space technology.

The FDR is one of only ten projects to get Stage Two funding from the program. This $600,000 award will provide the proof-of-concept FDR system over the next 18 months, and a working spacecraft would be ready as soon as 2020, Pancokti predicted but if NASA wanted to throw money at the project, this timescale could be cut.

Given the tight financial strictures of the US government this is unlikely, but the FDR engine has the potential to make chemical or ion drives for spacecraft as obsolete as the steam engine for earth-bound transportation.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/04/10/nasa_fusion_engine_fast_mars_trip/

and some food for thought: tp56qZm.jpg?1

What are OT's thoughts on NASA in general too? Since the Cold War is over and the US and its allies are technically still in "peacetime" it's somewhat depressing that NASA doesn't receieve a significant amount of funding while the military still takes up huge chunks of the budget.

#4 Posted by Rich3232 (2754 posts) -
That's amazing, and I think funding should absolutely be increased for NASA once we're in full recovery mode. Or just siphon some funds from defense to NASA; either way is good for me.
#5 Posted by airshocker (28859 posts) -

Sounds cool as fvck.

#6 Posted by Ackad (3150 posts) -
That's amazing, and I think funding should absolutely be increased for NASA once we're in full recovery mode. Or just siphon some funds from defense to NASA; either way is good for me. Rich3232
Reduce the corrupted officials' fat checks and fund the rest to NASA
#7 Posted by jimkabrhel (15417 posts) -

NASA has been a huge source for innovation over the years, but seems in decline because of lower funding. I really hope they keep going with this. I know there is research on fusion as an energy source in California, but I think that will be decades away. It's great research though.

#8 Posted by Rich3232 (2754 posts) -
[QUOTE="Rich3232"]That's amazing, and I think funding should absolutely be increased for NASA once we're in full recovery mode. Or just siphon some funds from defense to NASA; either way is good for me. Ackad
Reduce the corrupted officials' fat checks and fund the rest to NASA

Their paychecks are not that large, tho. I doubt we'd be getting a significant amount of money even if we reduced their paychecks down to zero.
#9 Posted by Fightingfan (38011 posts) -
envy my country Canadian.
#10 Posted by johnd13 (7927 posts) -

That' s very interesting. Maybe our only chance of witnessing significant discoveries and progress in space travel in our lifetime. Heck I think every person on the planet, that can afford a dollar, should contribute.

#11 Posted by Fightingfan (38011 posts) -

[QUOTE="Fightingfan"]envy my country Canadian.Aljosa23

jelly as fook right now

Though to be quite honest, this is likely to go nowhere. A lot of these scientific breakthroughs you read/hear on the news don't end up going anywhere due to lack of funding or interest.

We can't have an advanced society -- that's how capitalism works. Take advantage of the ignorant.
#12 Posted by k2theswiss (16598 posts) -

nasa needs work on hover boards...

#13 Posted by Aljosa23 (24623 posts) -

Sounds awesome. Hope I'm around still to see some of this cool stuff take shape. I would love to find a second earth and actually be able reach it.

strategyfn

Why stop at two, let's try for 100 billion.

#14 Posted by 4myAmuzumament (1746 posts) -
cool, i wanna be a witness to this. please get on the ball NASA!
#15 Posted by the_bi99man (11047 posts) -

that sounds boss. And yes, NASA absolutely needs more funding. there's billions upon billions of dollars being used by the military in illegal operations that most of the country doesn't even know about, and would be sickened to hear about. Take some.. scratch that... take ALL of that, and give it to NASA.

#16 Posted by the_bi99man (11047 posts) -

[QUOTE="Ackad"][QUOTE="Rich3232"]That's amazing, and I think funding should absolutely be increased for NASA once we're in full recovery mode. Or just siphon some funds from defense to NASA; either way is good for me. Rich3232
Reduce the corrupted officials' fat checks and fund the rest to NASA

Their paychecks are not that large, tho. I doubt we'd be getting a significant amount of money even if we reduced their paychecks down to zero.

Indeed. Part of the reason some of them turn to corruption, I'm sure. They don't actually get paid much. Probably more than any of us, but not THAT much. Government officials aren't taking in 7-figure paychecks like some wall street CEOs.

#17 Posted by kuraimen (28078 posts) -
Now this is something I could jump into. How about the US stops spending so much money invading countries and filling the pockets of weapons and oil ceos and spends it exploring space? I will become an instant fan.
#18 Posted by PernicioEnigma (5271 posts) -

nasa needs work on hover boards...

k2theswiss
Fusion Driven Rockets > Hover Boards.
#19 Posted by kuraimen (28078 posts) -

That' s very interesting. Maybe our only chance of witnessing significant discoveries and progress in space travel in our lifetime. Heck I think every person on the planet, that can afford a dollar, should contribute.

johnd13
That could work as long as it is guaranteed that the resources found and taken from other places belong to humanity and not to a couple of fat ceos.
#20 Posted by WSGRandomPerson (13693 posts) -
Simply amazing.
#21 Posted by Lotus-Edge (50439 posts) -
That's amazing, and I think funding should absolutely be increased for NASA once we're in full recovery mode. Or just siphon some funds from defense to NASA; either way is good for me. Rich3232
#22 Posted by Aljosa23 (24623 posts) -

[QUOTE="k2theswiss"]

nasa needs work on hover boards...

PernicioEnigma

Fusion Driven Rockets > Hover Boards.

Fusion driven hover boards >

#23 Posted by -Renegade (8340 posts) -

wow amazing. if they could get there that fast i guess it would be no need for them to send people to mars that couldn't get back.

#24 Posted by wis3boi (31026 posts) -

this is the kind of stuff worth throwing wads of money at

#25 Posted by k2theswiss (16598 posts) -

[QUOTE="PernicioEnigma"][QUOTE="k2theswiss"]

nasa needs work on hover boards...

Aljosa23

Fusion Driven Rockets > Hover Boards.

Fusion driven hover boards >

false?v=mpbl-1&px=-1

#26 Posted by k2theswiss (16598 posts) -
[QUOTE="k2theswiss"]

nasa needs work on hover boards...

PernicioEnigma
Fusion Driven Rockets > Hover Boards.

I can i have far more fun with a hoverboard. They aren't going let me on the rocket or will i have the funds pay for the fuel lol
#27 Posted by tenaka2 (17013 posts) -

So basically they are attaching a rail gun to a space ship?

#28 Posted by PcGamingRig (7069 posts) -

The more we can cut down the time it takes for space travel the better. I know it costs a lot and we are in a time were money is getting harder to come by but the potential for new discoveries that can help us is massive. not just in new life forms but also in mining and other things. the amount of resources that are out there is almost endless.

#29 Posted by l34052 (3118 posts) -

NASA, the white face of the black world.

#30 Posted by Jehuty08 (1951 posts) -

I find this so ridiculously cool

#31 Posted by Flubbbs (2916 posts) -

i wonder if the astronauts will be able to see plade like in spaceballs