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Title: Laser-fusion rocket for interplanetary propulsion

Abstract

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 consisting 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.

Authors:
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab., CA (USA)
OSTI Identifier:
5619090
Report Number(s):
UCRL-88857; CONF-8310171-1
ON: DE84001238
DOE Contract Number:
W-7405-ENG-48
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: 34. International Astronautical Federation conference, Budapest, Hungary, 10 Oct 1983; Other Information: Portions are illegible in microfiche products
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; ROCKETS; PROPULSION; DESIGN; DEUTERIUM; LASER IMPLOSIONS; LASER TARGETS; THERMONUCLEAR FUELS; TRITIUM; BETA DECAY RADIOISOTOPES; BETA-MINUS DECAY RADIOISOTOPES; FUELS; HYDROGEN ISOTOPES; IMPLOSIONS; ISOTOPES; LIGHT NUCLEI; NUCLEI; ODD-EVEN NUCLEI; ODD-ODD NUCLEI; RADIOISOTOPES; STABLE ISOTOPES; TARGETS; YEARS LIVING RADIOISOTOPES; 700208* - Fusion Power Plant Technology- Inertial Confinement Technology

Citation Formats

Hyde, R.A. Laser-fusion rocket for interplanetary propulsion. United States: N. p., 1983. Web.
Hyde, R.A. Laser-fusion rocket for interplanetary propulsion. United States.
Hyde, R.A. Tue . "Laser-fusion rocket for interplanetary propulsion". United States. doi:. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/5619090.
@article{osti_5619090,
title = {Laser-fusion rocket for interplanetary propulsion},
author = {Hyde, R.A.},
abstractNote = {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 consisting 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.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Tue Sep 27 00:00:00 EDT 1983},
month = {Tue Sep 27 00:00:00 EDT 1983}
}

Conference:
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  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 planetmore » 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.« less
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