Nuclear fusion-powered spacecraft that could enable a probe to come to Saturn in just TWO YEARS could only be a decade away, the researcher claims
- Researchers say that a spacecraft with nuclear fusion is within reach
- With a new type of engine, scientists were able to shorten the travel time to Saturn by 5 years
- Direct merger drives are still theoretical, but have received more money
- Researchers say they can demonstrate nuclear fusion in 2020
By 2028, a nuclear fusion-driven propulsion system could bring space travel forward and halve travel times to distant planets, a new report said.
According to Space.com, the developers of the direct fusion drive, which uses a long-standing form of nuclear fusion, say their technology could reduce the travel time for a spaceship to Saturn from seven to just two.
And what would otherwise be a nine-year trip to Pluto would only take five years, researchers say.
The engine, developed by Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, works with a mixture of helium-3 and deuterium, a modified version of hydrogen with a neutron in the core, which is combined with a warm plasma.
The new concept uses a large number of futuristic technologies to create an engine capable of accelerating interplanetary travel in half the time.
This reaction generates a considerable amount of energy with minimal radiation and is directed outwards to generate thrust.
The technology also uses the enormous amount of heat generated by clever use of what is known as a & # 39; Brayton cycle & # 39; motor to convert the by-product into electricity.
Not only would the futuristic engine be able to bring spacecraft to their destinations faster than traditional methods, but would also help to save energy so that once they arrived, they could perform longer and more in-depth missions.
However, there is only one problem with researchers' technology: it has not yet been proven that it works.
Scientists have been killed since the 1930s to successfully demonstrate nuclear fusion, the same process that drives stars, but has taken up that challenge after challenge.
Although the process has been a proverbial holy grail for scientists, the direct fusion drive has shown enough concepts to convince US energy and space officials of its effectiveness.
According to Space.com, the direct fusion drive has yielded considerable amounts, including two rounds from NASA and also from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
Saturn could be closer than ever if scientists were able to bring a new type of nuclear fusion-driven engine to maturity.
In contrast to technologies from the past, the direct fusion drive uses new methods such as magnetic confinement to hold plasma stable low-density for a longer time and to heat the material long and warm enough to achieve fusion.
Although researchers have not achieved a merger, they hope to do so by the mid-2020s according to Space.com.
A prototype for the flight would follow from there – and a real mission could take place as early as 2028.
NASA hopes that nuclear fusion can help some of its upcoming businesses such as a lunar & # 39; Gateway & # 39; – a space station around the orbit of the moon – to provide power, as well as a lander and orbiter capable of bringing it to Pluto.
HOW DOES A NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR WORK?
Fusion is the process by which a gas is heated and separated into its constituent ions and electrons.
These are light elements, such as hydrogen, that melt together into heavier elements, such as helium.
For fusion to take place, hydrogen atoms are placed under high heat and pressure until they fuse together.
The tokamak (artist impression) is the most developed magnetic confinement system and forms the basis for the design of many modern fusion reactors. The purple color in the middle of the diagram shows the plasma inside
When deuterium and tritium nuclei – found in hydrogen – come together, they form a helium core, a neutron and a lot of energy.
This is done by heating the fuel to temperatures of over 150 million ° C and forming a hot plasma, a gaseous soup of subatomic particles.
Strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the walls of the reactor so that it does not cool down and loses its energy potential.
These fields are produced by superconducting coils that surround the vessel and by an electric current driven by the plasma.
For energy production, plasma must be confined for a sufficiently long period for fusion.
When ions become sufficiently warm, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, melting together.
When this happens, they release about a million times more energy than a chemical reaction and three to four times more than a conventional nuclear fission reactor.
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