skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: FIREBALL: Fusion Ignition Rocket Engine with Ballistic Ablative Lithium Liner

Abstract

Thermo-nuclear fusion may be the key to a high Isp, high specific power propulsion system. In a fusion system energy is liberated within, and imparted directly to, the propellant. In principle, this can overcome the performance limitations inherent in systems that require thermal power transfer across a material boundary, and/or multiple power conversion stages (NTR, NEP). A thermo-nuclear propulsion system, which attempts to overcome some of the problems inherent in the Orion concept, is described. A dense FRC plasmoid is accelerated to high velocity (in excess of 500 km/s) and is compressed into a detached liner (pulse unit). The kinetic energy of the FRC is converted into thermal and magnetic-field energy, igniting a fusion burn in the magnetically confined plasma. The fusion reaction serves as an ignition source for the liner, which is made out of detonable materials. The energy liberated in this process is converted to thrust by a pusher-plate, as in the classic Orion concept. However with this concept, the vehicle does not carry a magazine of autonomous pulse-units. By accelerating a second, heavier FRC, which acts as a piston, right behind the first one, the velocity required to initiate the fusion burn is greatly reduced.

Authors:
; ;  [1];  [2]
  1. Propulsion Research Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center XD22, Huntsville, AL 35812 (United States)
  2. Department of Physics, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35899 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
20798020
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: AIP Conference Proceedings; Journal Volume: 813; Journal Issue: 1; Conference: 10. conference on thermophysics applications in microgravity; 23. symposium on space nuclear power and propulsion; 4. conference on human/robotic technology and the national vision for space exploration; 4. symposium on space colonization; 3. symposium on new frontiers and future concepts, Albuquerque, NM (United States), 12-16 Feb 2006; Other Information: DOI: 10.1063/1.2169260; (c) 2006 American Institute of Physics; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; ENERGY CONVERSION; KINETIC ENERGY; LINERS; LITHIUM; MAGNETIC FIELDS; PERFORMANCE; PLASMA; PROPULSION; PROPULSION SYSTEMS; PULSES; REVERSE-FIELD PINCH; ROCKET ENGINES; SPACE VEHICLES; THERMONUCLEAR IGNITION

Citation Formats

Martin, Adam K., Eskridge, Richard H., Lee, Michael H., and Fimognari, Peter J. FIREBALL: Fusion Ignition Rocket Engine with Ballistic Ablative Lithium Liner. United States: N. p., 2006. Web. doi:10.1063/1.2169260.
Martin, Adam K., Eskridge, Richard H., Lee, Michael H., & Fimognari, Peter J. FIREBALL: Fusion Ignition Rocket Engine with Ballistic Ablative Lithium Liner. United States. doi:10.1063/1.2169260.
Martin, Adam K., Eskridge, Richard H., Lee, Michael H., and Fimognari, Peter J. Fri . "FIREBALL: Fusion Ignition Rocket Engine with Ballistic Ablative Lithium Liner". United States. doi:10.1063/1.2169260.
@article{osti_20798020,
title = {FIREBALL: Fusion Ignition Rocket Engine with Ballistic Ablative Lithium Liner},
author = {Martin, Adam K. and Eskridge, Richard H. and Lee, Michael H. and Fimognari, Peter J.},
abstractNote = {Thermo-nuclear fusion may be the key to a high Isp, high specific power propulsion system. In a fusion system energy is liberated within, and imparted directly to, the propellant. In principle, this can overcome the performance limitations inherent in systems that require thermal power transfer across a material boundary, and/or multiple power conversion stages (NTR, NEP). A thermo-nuclear propulsion system, which attempts to overcome some of the problems inherent in the Orion concept, is described. A dense FRC plasmoid is accelerated to high velocity (in excess of 500 km/s) and is compressed into a detached liner (pulse unit). The kinetic energy of the FRC is converted into thermal and magnetic-field energy, igniting a fusion burn in the magnetically confined plasma. The fusion reaction serves as an ignition source for the liner, which is made out of detonable materials. The energy liberated in this process is converted to thrust by a pusher-plate, as in the classic Orion concept. However with this concept, the vehicle does not carry a magazine of autonomous pulse-units. By accelerating a second, heavier FRC, which acts as a piston, right behind the first one, the velocity required to initiate the fusion burn is greatly reduced.},
doi = {10.1063/1.2169260},
journal = {AIP Conference Proceedings},
number = 1,
volume = 813,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Jan 20 00:00:00 EST 2006},
month = {Fri Jan 20 00:00:00 EST 2006}
}
  • A laser ignition scheme is considered for a fusion target placed in the cavity of a radiating plasma liner produced in a 'double liner' system. It is shown that this scheme can be employed to realise an efficient thermonuclear burst. The precompression and heating of a deuterium - tritium target with an iron shell by a thermal radiation pulse was simulated using the TRITON mathematical code for the parameters of the Z-generator at the Sandia National Laboratories (USA). Laser and target parameters were optimised for the ignition of the deuterium - tritium fuel by protons accelerated by laser radiation. Themore » propagation of the thermonuclear burning wave during the fast ignition was calculated employing the TERA mathematical code, which involves Monte-Carlo simulation of the kinetics of fast thermonuclear particles and hard gamma-ray quanta at each time step of hydrodynamic calculations. The dependence of the fusion energy gain G on the ignition energy is theoretically explained. The laser parameters required to obtain G >> 1 are determined.« less
  • This paper describes a setup for thrust measurement in ablative laser propulsion experiments, based on a simple ballistic pendulum associated to an imaging system, which is being assembled at IEAv. A light aluminium pendulum holding samples is placed inside a 100 liters vacuum chamber with two optical windows: the first (in ZnSe) for the laser beam and the second (in fused quartz) for the pendulum visualization. A TEA-CO{sub 2} laser beam is focused to the samples providing ablation and transferring linear moment to the pendulum as a whole. A CCD video camera captures the oscillatory movement of the pendulum andmore » the its trajectory is obtained by image processing. By fitting the trajectory of the pendulum to a dumped sinusoidal curve is possible to obtain the amplitude of the movement which is directly related to the momentum transfered to the sample.« less
  • A cryogenically cooled hardware platform has been developed and commissioned on the Z Facility at Sandia National Laboratories in support of the Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion (MagLIF) Program. MagLIF is a magneto-inertial fusion concept that employs a magnetically imploded metallic tube (liner) to compress and inertially confine premagnetized and preheated fusion fuel. The fuel is preheated using a ~2 kJ laser that must pass through a ~1.5-3.5-μm-thick polyimide “window” at the target’s laser entrance hole (LEH). As the terawatt-class laser interacts with the dense window, laser plasma instabilities (LPIs) can develop, which reduce the preheat energy delivered to the fuel,more » initiate fuel contamination, and degrade target performance. Cryogenically cooled targets increase the parameter space accessible to MagLIF target designs by allowing nearly 10 times thinner windows to be used for any accessible gas density. Thinner LEH windows reduce the deleterious effects of difficult to model LPIs. The Z Facility’s cryogenic infrastructure has been significantly altered to enable compatibility with the premagnetization and fuel preheat stages of MagLIF. The MagLIF cryostat brings the liquid helium coolant directly to the target via an electrically resistive conduit. This design maximizes cooling power while allowing rapid diffusion of the axial magnetic field supplied by external Helmholtz-like coils. A variety of techniques have been developed to mitigate the accumulation of ice from vacuum chamber contaminants on the cooled LEH window, as even a few hundred nanometers of ice would impact laser energy coupling to the fuel region. Here, the MagLIF cryostat has demonstrated compatibility with the premagnetization and preheat stages of MagLIF and the ability to cool targets to liquid deuterium temperatures in approximately 5 min.« less
  • We present two designs relevant to ablative Rayleigh-Taylor instability in transition from weakly nonlinear to highly nonlinear regimes at the National Ignition Facility [E. I. Moses, J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 112, 012003 (2008)]. The sensitivity of nonlinear Rayleigh-Taylor instability physics to ablation velocity is addressed with targets driven by indirect drive, with stronger ablative stabilization, and by direct drive, with weaker ablative stabilization. The indirect drive design demonstrates the potential to reach a two-dimensional bubble-merger regime with a 20 ns duration drive at moderate radiation temperature. The direct drive design achieves a 3 to 5 times increased acceleration distance formore » the sample in comparison to previous experiments allowing at least 2 more bubble generations when starting from a three-dimensional broadband spectrum.« less
  • Academic tests in physical regimes not encountered in Inertial Confinement Fusion will help to build a better understanding of hydrodynamic instabilities and constitute the scientifically grounded validation complementary to fully integrated experiments. Under the National Ignition Facility (NIF) Discovery Science program, recent indirect drive experiments have been carried out to study the ablative Rayleigh-Taylor Instability (RTI) in transition from weakly nonlinear to highly nonlinear regime [A. Casner et al., Phys. Plasmas 19, 082708 (2012)]. In these experiments, a modulated package is accelerated by a 175 eV radiative temperature plateau created by a room temperature gas-filled platform irradiated by 60 NIF lasermore » beams. The unique capabilities of the NIF are harnessed to accelerate this planar sample over much larger distances (≃1.4 mm) and longer time periods (≃12 ns) than previously achieved. This extended acceleration could eventually allow entering into a turbulent-like regime not precluded by the theory for the RTI at the ablation front. Simultaneous measurements of the foil trajectory and the subsequent RTI growth are performed and compared with radiative hydrodynamics simulations. We present RTI growth measurements for two-dimensional single-mode and broadband multimode modulations. The dependence of RTI growth on initial conditions and ablative stabilization is emphasized, and we demonstrate for the first time in indirect-drive a bubble-competition, bubble-merger regime for the RTI at ablation front.« less