Saturday, April 7, 2012

Russian Ion Space Propulsion

Nothing is really said about the nuclear power source which has to produce copious electrical power without heat issues.  Since this is useful in the power generation business and it is not available, this is likely missing.  However a super sixed ion thruster is very important and would certainly allow system provided power can be generated.

If the Focus Fusion System succeeds, then the power part of the equation will be solved.  At that point, powerful ion thrusters are an important next step.  It should also be possible to design heavy lifters that take advantage of the atmosphere to hurl a large load into space.  A small amount of internal fuel or even reloading in orbit will easily provide ample thrust.

The real challenge with a system needing reaction mass is that it is seriously limiting.  Yet a magnetic funnel can collect gas from space itself into the ionization chamber so there may be a crossover speed in which acceleration can be sustained by intake.

To explore the Solar System it is necessary to maintain one G of thrust continuously.  A Focus Fusion Energy System combined with advanced ion thrusters could plausibly solve the problem until we develop a superior magnetic field exclusion vessel (MFEV).

Any way, it is good to see ongoing dedicated effort on alternative propulsion systems, to say nothing about the brave new future pronouncements from what is now a whole string of Space groups.

Plutonium to Pluto: Russian nuclear space travel breakthrough

by Staff Writers

Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Apr 05, 2012

Not quite warp drive - but nuclear rocket engines would dramatically speed up travel times within the solar system. 

A ground-breaking Russian nuclear space-travel propulsion system will be ready by 2017 and will power a ship capable of long-haul interplanetary missions by 2025, giving Russia a head start in the outer-space race.

The megawatt-class nuclear drive will function for up to three years and produce 100-150 kilowatts of energy at normal capacity.

The new project proposes the use of an electric ion propulsion system. The engines exhaust thrust will be generated by an ion flow, which is further accelerated by an electric field.

The nuclear reactor will therefore "supply" the necessary amount of electric power without unwanted radioactive contamination of the environment.

Xenon will serve as propellant for the engines.

It is under development at Skolkovo, Russia's technology innovation hub, whose nuclear cluster head Denis Kovalevich confirmed the breakthrough to Interfax. "At present we are testing several types of fuel and later we will start drafting the design," he said.

While the engine is expected to be fully assembled by 2017 the accompanying craft will not be ready before 2025 former head of Roscosmos, Anatoly Perminov, told Interfax.

Scientists expect to start putting the new engine through its paces in operational tests as early as 2014.

The Russian government began the ambitious project in 2010 with an investment of approximately $17 million dollars and is expected to shell out $247 million over the next five years to complete the engine.

The idea of using a nuclear propulsion system to power space missions is not altogether new. It came about in the 1960s and was the brainchild of three Russian academics, Mstislav Keldysh, Igor Kurchatov and Sergey Korolev in the Soviet Union.

Research into the field was subsequently carried out not only in the Soviet Union, but also in the US, although with a view to creating a new weapon rather than the advancement of space travel.

The stumbling block that has faced scientists over the last couple of years is that as a craft travels further away from the sun's rays, solar energy weakens and cannot produce the necessary energy to power electric engines through its solar panels.

Nuclear power has generally been considered a good alternative to fossil fuels to power space craft, as it is the only energy source capable of producing the enormous thrust needed for fast interplanetary travel.

NASA embarked on a project to develop a nuclear engine capable of powering a space craft, but funding was cut in 2003.

The revolutionary propulsion system falls in line with recently announced plans for Russia to conquer space. Last month, the Russian Federal Space Agency released its ambitious scheme to explore our solar system in the coming years.

Entitled Space Development Strategies up to 2030, Russia aims to send probes to Mars, Jupiter, and Venus, as well as establish a series of bases on the moon.
Source: RIA Novosti

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