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Title: Prospects for rocket propulsion with laser-induced fusion microexplosions

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Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Originating Research Org. not identified
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
CONF-721116-4; UCRL-74218(Rev.2)
Resource Type:
Resource Relation:
Conference: 8. propulsion joint specialist conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 29 Nov 1972; Other Information: Orig. Receipt Date: 31-DEC-73; Related Information: AIAA paper No. 72-1063
Country of Publication:
Country unknown/Code not available

Citation Formats

Hyde, R., Wood, L., and Nuckolls, J.. Prospects for rocket propulsion with laser-induced fusion microexplosions. Country unknown/Code not available: N. p., 1972. Web.
Hyde, R., Wood, L., & Nuckolls, J.. Prospects for rocket propulsion with laser-induced fusion microexplosions. Country unknown/Code not available.
Hyde, R., Wood, L., and Nuckolls, J.. 1972. "Prospects for rocket propulsion with laser-induced fusion microexplosions". Country unknown/Code not available. doi:.
title = {Prospects for rocket propulsion with laser-induced fusion microexplosions},
author = {Hyde, R. and Wood, L. and Nuckolls, J.},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {Country unknown/Code not available},
year = 1972,
month = 1

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  • A rocket powered by fusion microexplosions is well suited for quick interplanetary travel. Fusion pellets are sequentially injected into a magnetic thrust chamber. There, focused energy from a fusion Driver is used to implode and ignite them. Upon exploding, the plasma debris expands into the surrounding magnetic field and is redirected by it, producing thrust. This paper discusses the desired features and operation of the fusion pellet, its Driver, and magnetic thrust chamber. A rocket design is presented which uses slightly tritium-enriched deuterium as the fusion fuel, a high temperature KrF laser as the Driver, and a thrust chamber consistingmore » of a single superconducting current loop protected from the pellet by a radiation shield. This rocket can be operated with a power-to-mass ratio of 110 W gm/sup -1/, which permits missions ranging from occasional 9 day VIP service to Mars, to routine 1 year, 1500 ton, Plutonian cargo runs.« less
  • Submicron-diameter structures can be produced inside many transparent materials by tightly focused 100-fs laser pulses. The ultrafast energy deposition creates very high temperature and pressure inside the region, initiating a `microexplosion`. Material is ejected from the center and forced into the surrounding volume, forming a void surrounded by densified material. Scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy show structural changes confined to an area 200 nm in diameter.
  • Practical ground-to-orbit and inter-orbital space flights both require propulsion systems of large flight-path-averaged specific impulse (I[sub sp]) and engine system thrust-to-mass-ratio (F/m[sub e]=[F]) for useful payload and structure fractions in single-stage vehicles (Hunter 1966). Current rocket and air-breathing engine technologies lead to enormous vehicles and small payloads; a natural result of the limited specific energy available from chemical reactions. While nuclear energy far exceeds these specific energy limits (Bussard and DeLauer 1958), the inherent high-I[sub sp] advantages of fission propulsion concepts for space and air-breathing flight (Bussard and DeLauer 1965) are negated for manned systems by the massive radiation shieldingmore » required by their high radiation output (Bussard 1971). However, there are well-known radiation-free nuclear fusion reactions (Gross 1984) between isotopes of selected light elements (such as H+[sup 11]B, D+[sup 3]He) that yield only energetic charged particles, whose energy can be converted directly into electricity by confining electric fields (Moir and Barr 1973,1983). New confinement concepts using magnetic-electric-potentials (Bussard 1989a) or inertial-collisional-compression (ICC) (Bussard 1990) have been found that offer the prospect of clean, compact fusion systems with very high output and low mass. Their radiation-free d.c. electrical output can power unique new electron-beam-driven thrust systems of extremely high performance. Parametric design studies show that such charged-particle electric-discharge engines ( QED'' engines) might yield rocket propulsion systems with performance in the ranges of 2[lt][F][lt]6 and 1500[lt]I[sub sp][lt]5500 sec.« less
  • The present inertial-confinement fusion concept employs a magnetized target pellet that is driven by a laser beam in conjunction with a tungsten shell whose inner surface is coated with a deuterium-tritium fusion fuel mixture. A laser beam that enters the pellet through a hole simultaneously creates a fusion-grade plasma and gives rise to a powerful, instantaneous magnetic field which thermally insulates the plasma from the material wall. The plasma lifetime of this self-generated magnetic field scheme is dictated by the shock speed in the tungsten shell rather than by the speed of sound in the plasma: it consequently burns muchmore » longer and efficiently than plausible alternatives. A manned mission could by these means be completed in a few months rather than a few years, in virtue of the great specific impulse achieved. 8 refs.« less