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Title: Interplanetary space transport using inertial fusion propulsion

Abstract

In this paper, we indicate how the great advantages that ICF offers for interplanetary propulsion can be accomplished with the VISTA spacecraft concept. The performance of VISTA is expected to surpass that from other realistic technologies for Mars missions if the energy gain achievable for ICF targets is above several hundred. Based on the good performance expected from the U. S. National Ignition Facility (NIF), the requirements for VISTA should be well within the realm of possibility if creative target concepts such as the fast ignitor can be developed. We also indicate that a 6000-ton VISTA can visit any planet in the solar system and return to Earth in about 7 years or less without any significant physiological hazards to astronauts. In concept, VISTA provides such short-duration missions, especially to Mars, that the hazards from cosmic radiation and zero gravity can be reduced to insignificant levels. VISTA therefore represents a significant step forward for space-propulsion concepts.

Authors:
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab., CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE, Washington, DC (United States)
OSTI Identifier:
324289
Report Number(s):
UCRL-JC-129237; CONF-980659-
ON: DE98058340; BR: DP0210000; CNN: W-7405-Eng-48; TRN: 99:003662
DOE Contract Number:
W-7405-ENG-48
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: 9. international conference on emerging nuclear energy systems (ICENES `98), Tel Aviv (Israel), 28 Jun - 2 Jul 1998; Other Information: PBD: 20 Apr 1998
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION; INERTIAL CONFINEMENT; SPACE VEHICLES; PROPULSION SYSTEMS

Citation Formats

Orth, C.D. Interplanetary space transport using inertial fusion propulsion. United States: N. p., 1998. Web.
Orth, C.D. Interplanetary space transport using inertial fusion propulsion. United States.
Orth, C.D. 1998. "Interplanetary space transport using inertial fusion propulsion". United States. doi:. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/324289.
@article{osti_324289,
title = {Interplanetary space transport using inertial fusion propulsion},
author = {Orth, C.D.},
abstractNote = {In this paper, we indicate how the great advantages that ICF offers for interplanetary propulsion can be accomplished with the VISTA spacecraft concept. The performance of VISTA is expected to surpass that from other realistic technologies for Mars missions if the energy gain achievable for ICF targets is above several hundred. Based on the good performance expected from the U. S. National Ignition Facility (NIF), the requirements for VISTA should be well within the realm of possibility if creative target concepts such as the fast ignitor can be developed. We also indicate that a 6000-ton VISTA can visit any planet in the solar system and return to Earth in about 7 years or less without any significant physiological hazards to astronauts. In concept, VISTA provides such short-duration missions, especially to Mars, that the hazards from cosmic radiation and zero gravity can be reduced to insignificant levels. VISTA therefore represents a significant step forward for space-propulsion concepts.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = 1998,
month = 4
}

Conference:
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  • Inertial fusion can be used to power spacecraft within the solar system and beyond. Such spacecraft have the potential for short-duration manned-mission performance exceeding other technologies. We are conducting a study to assess the systems aspects of inertial fusion as applied to such missions, based on the conceptual engine design of Hyde (1983) we describe the required systems for an entirely new spacecraft design called VISTA that is based on the use of DT fuel. We give preliminary design details for the power conversion and power conditioning systems for manned missions to Mars of total duration of about 100 days.more » Specific mission performance results will be published elsewhere, after the study has been completed.« less
  • Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) is an attractive engine power source for interplanetary manned spacecraft, especially for near-term missions requiring minimum flight duration, because ICF has inherent high power-to-mass ratios and high specific impulses. We have developed a new vehicle concept called VISTA that uses ICF and is capable of round-trip manned missions to Mars in 100 days using A.D. 2020 technology. We describe VISTA's engine operation, discuss associated plasma issues, and describe the advantages of DT fuel for near-term applications. Although ICF is potentially superior to non-fusion technologies for near-term interplanetary transport, the performance capabilities of VISTA cannot be meaningfullymore » compared with those of magnetic-fusion systems because of the lack of a comparable study of the magnetic-fusion systems. We urge that such a study be conducted.« less
  • Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) is an ideal technology to power self-contained single-stage piloted (manned) spacecraft within the solar system because of its inherently high power/mass ratios and high specific impulses (i.e., high exhaust velocities). These technological advantages are retained when ICF is utilized with a magnetic thrust chamber, which avoids the plasma thermalization and resultant degradation of specific impulse that are unavoidable with the use of mechanical thrust chambers. We started with Rod Hyde's 1983 description of an ICF-powered engine concept using a magnetic thrust chamber, and conducted a more detailed systems study to develop a viable, realistic, and defensiblemore » spacecraft concept based on ICF technology projected to be available in the first half of the 21st century. The results include an entirely new conical spacecraft conceptual design utilizing near-existing radiator technology. We describe the various vehicle systems for this new concept, estimate the missions performance capabilities for general missions to the planets within the solar system, and describe in detail the performance for the baseline mission of a piloted roundtrip to Mars with a 100-ton payload. For this mission, we show that roundtrips totaling {ge}145 days are possible with advanced DT fusion technology and a total (wet) spacecraft mass of about 6000 metric tons. Such short-duration missions are advantageous to minimize the known cosmic-radiation hazards to astronauts, and are even more important to minimize the physiological deteriorations arising from zero gravity. These ICF-powered missions are considerably faster than those available using chemical or nuclear-electric-propulsion technologies with minimum-mass vehicle configurations. VISTA also offers onboard artificial gravity and propellant-based shielding from cosmic rays, thus reducing the known hazards and physiological deteriorations to insignificant levels. We emphasize, however, that the degree to which an ICF-powered vehicle can outperform a vehicle using any other realistic technology depends on the degree to which terrestrial-based ICF research can develop the necessary energy gain from ICF targets. With aggressive progress in such terrestrial research, VISTA will be able to make roundtrip missions to Pluto in {approx}7 years, and missions to points just beyond the solar system within a human lifetime.« less
  • Recently revised estimates of target gain have added additional optimistic inputs to the interface between targets, accelerators and fusion chamber beam transport. But it remains valid that neutralization of the beams in the fusion chamber is useful if ion charge state Z > 1 or if > 1 kA per beamlet is to be propagated. Some engineering and economic considerations favor higher currents.
  • Two fusion schemes whose underlying physics is reasonably well understood are shown to form the basis of propulsion systems that could be used for interstellar exploration in the early part of the next century. The first, a magnetic confinement concept known as gas-dynamic mirror (GDM), generates a specific impulse of 1.3 x 10{sup 5}s and a thrust of 2.52 x 10{sup 3}N and can make the 10 000-AU one-way journey in {approx}42 yr. The other, referred to as magnetically insulated inertial confinement fusion (MICF), is a pulsed inertial fusion system that generates a specific impulse of 1.74 x 10{sup 5}more » and a thrust of {approx}6 x 10{sup 4} and can make the same mission in {approx}29 yr.« less