Saturday, October 13, 2012

go fast

My brother David sends me this link to an Ars Technica article about a fusion-reaction drive that might allow humans to reach Mars in half the time we'd currently need: the new travel time would be about three months. Nifty.

The engine, dubbed the "Charger-1 Pulsed Power Generator," would be constructed in space along with the rest of the spaceship to avoid the tricky engineering difficulties of getting all that delicate fusion equipment up through the atmosphere—just like the International Space Station. Once ready, the reactor would be engaged, and millions of amps are passed through super-thin lithium wires in 100 nanosecond pulses—this could generate up to three terawatts of power. Those wires vaporize into plasma, which is collapsed onto the core of deuterium and lithium-6, inducing a fusion reaction.

The energy from that would be forced out the back of the ship in a so-called "z-pinch" using a "magnetic nozzle," a component which the team are also developing. The engine's potential top speed? Over 100,000 km/h. That's roughly the same speed at which the Earth orbits the Sun.

Or as Bruce Campbell might say: Groovy.



Surprises Aplenty said...

I haven't read the original article, but what does "top speed" mean in space? I could understand 'maximum acceleration' but 100,000km/hr doesn't sound that close to relativistic speeds where acceleration would be damped due to an increase in mass.

The article sounds cool and I'll have a look.

Kevin Kim said...

I imagine that "top speed" means "top speed for this particular engine design."