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Title: The VISTA spacecraft: Advantages of ICF (Inertial Confinement Fusion) for interplanetary fusion propulsion applications

Abstract

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 meaningfully 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.

Authors:
; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab., CA (USA); Jet Propulsion Lab., Pasadena, CA (USA); Rockwell International Corp., Canoga Park, CA (USA). Energy Technology Engineering Center; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Houston, TX (USA). Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
OSTI Identifier:
6112845
Report Number(s):
UCRL-96676; CONF-871007-2
ON: DE88000417
DOE Contract Number:
W-7405-ENG-48
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: 12. symposium on fusion engineering, Monterey, CA, USA, 12 Oct 1987; Other Information: Paper copy only, copy does not permit microfiche production
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; 32 ENERGY CONSERVATION, CONSUMPTION, AND UTILIZATION; PROPULSION SYSTEMS; ENERGY SOURCES; FEASIBILITY STUDIES; SPACE VEHICLES; DESIGN; DEUTERIUM; EFFICIENCY; INERTIAL CONFINEMENT; LASER FUSION REACTORS; MAGNETIC MIRRORS; PELLET INJECTION; PLASMA; TRITIUM; BETA DECAY RADIOISOTOPES; BETA-MINUS DECAY RADIOISOTOPES; CONFINEMENT; HYDROGEN ISOTOPES; ISOTOPES; LIGHT NUCLEI; NUCLEI; ODD-EVEN NUCLEI; ODD-ODD NUCLEI; OPEN PLASMA DEVICES; PLASMA CONFINEMENT; RADIOISOTOPES; STABLE ISOTOPES; THERMONUCLEAR DEVICES; THERMONUCLEAR REACTORS; VEHICLES; YEARS LIVING RADIOISOTOPES; 700208* - Fusion Power Plant Technology- Inertial Confinement Technology; 320201 - Energy Conservation, Consumption, & Utilization- Transportation- Air & Aerospace

Citation Formats

Orth, C.D., Klein, G., Sercel, J., Hoffman, N., Murray, K., and Chang-Diaz, F. The VISTA spacecraft: Advantages of ICF (Inertial Confinement Fusion) for interplanetary fusion propulsion applications. United States: N. p., 1987. Web.
Orth, C.D., Klein, G., Sercel, J., Hoffman, N., Murray, K., & Chang-Diaz, F. The VISTA spacecraft: Advantages of ICF (Inertial Confinement Fusion) for interplanetary fusion propulsion applications. United States.
Orth, C.D., Klein, G., Sercel, J., Hoffman, N., Murray, K., and Chang-Diaz, F. Fri . "The VISTA spacecraft: Advantages of ICF (Inertial Confinement Fusion) for interplanetary fusion propulsion applications". United States. doi:. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/6112845.
@article{osti_6112845,
title = {The VISTA spacecraft: Advantages of ICF (Inertial Confinement Fusion) for interplanetary fusion propulsion applications},
author = {Orth, C.D. and Klein, G. and Sercel, J. and Hoffman, N. and Murray, K. and Chang-Diaz, F.},
abstractNote = {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 meaningfully 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.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Oct 02 00:00:00 EDT 1987},
month = {Fri Oct 02 00:00:00 EDT 1987}
}

Conference:
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  • VISTA was conceived through a detailed systems analysis as a viable, realistic, and defensible spacecraft concept based on advanced ICF technology but existing or near-term technology for other systems. It is a conical self-contained single-stage piloted spacecraft in which a magnetic thrust chamber directs the plasma emissions from inertial confinement fusion (ICF) targets into a rearward exhaust. VISTA's propulsion system is therefore unique because it is based on (1) a rather mature technology (ICF), which is known to work with sufficient driver input; (2) direct heating of all expellant by the fusion process, thus providing high mass flow rates withoutmore » significant degradation of jet efficiency; and (3) 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. VISTA therefore has inherently high power/mass ratios and high specific impulses. With advanced ICF technology, ultra-fast roundtrips (RTs) to objects within the solar system are possible (e.g., {ge}145 days RT to Mars, {ge}7 years RT to Pluto). Such short-duration missions are imperative to minimize the human physiological deteriorations arising from zero gravity and the cosmic-radiation. In addition, VISTA offers on-board artificial gravity and propellant-based shielding from cosmic rays, thus reducing the physiological deteriorations to insignificant levels. In this paper, we give an overview of the various vehicle systems for this concept, estimate the general missions performance capabilities for interplanetary missions, and describe in detail the performance for the baseline mission of a piloted roundtrip to Mars with a 100-ton payload. Items requiring further research include a reduction of the wet mass from its baseline value of 6,000 metric tons, and the development of fast ignition or its equivalent to provide target gains in excess of several hundred. With target gains well above several hundred, there is no other known technology that can compete with VISTA's performance.« less
  • Current mode neutron time-of-flight detectors are used on Nova for neutron yield, ion temperature, and neutron emission time measurements. Currently used detectors are limited by the time response of the microchannel plate photomultiplier tubes (MCP-PMTs) used with the scintillators, scintillator decay time, scintillator thickness, and oscilloscope response time. A change in the geometry of the scintillator allows one to take advantage of the increased time resolution made possible by more advanced transient recorders and microchannel plate photomultiplier tubes. A prototype detector has been designed to incorporate these changes, and could potentially yield time resolution of less than 150 ps. Experimentalmore » results are presented demonstrating an ion temperature measurement of a direct-drive DT implosion on Nova. 9 refs.« 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
  • The use of laser-driven Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) for space propulsion has been the subject of several earlier conceptual design studies, (see: Orth, 1998; and other references therein). However, these studies were based on older ICF technology using either 'direct' or 'in-direct x-ray driven' type target irradiation. Important new directions have opened for laser ICF in recent years following the development of 'chirped' lasers capable of ultra short pulses with powers of TW up to few PW which leads to the concept of 'fast ignition (FI)' to achieve higher energy gains from target implosions. In a recent publication the authorsmore » showed that use of a modified type of FI, termed 'block ignition' (Miley et al., 2008), could meet many of the requirements anticipated (but not then available) by the designs of the Vehicle for Interplanetary Space Transport Applications (VISTA) ICF fusion propulsion ship (Orth, 2008) for deep space missions. Subsequently the first author devised and presented concepts for imbedding high density condensed matter 'clusters' of deuterium into the target to obtain ultra high local fusion reaction rates (Miley, 2008). Such rates are possible due to the high density of the clusters (over an order of magnitude above cryogenic deuterium). Once compressed by the implosion, the yet higher density gives an ultra high reaction rate over the cluster volume since the fusion rate is proportional to the square of the fuel density. Most recently, a new discovery discussed here indicates that the target matrix could be composed of B{sup 11} with proton clusters imbedded. This then makes p-B{sup 11} fusion practical, assuming all of the physics issues such as stability of the clusters during compression are resolved. Indeed, p-B{sup 11} power is ideal for fusion propulsion since it has a minimum of unwanted side products while giving most of the reaction energy to energetic alpha particles which can be directed into an exhaust (propulsion) nozzle. Power plants using p-B{sup 11} have been discussed for such applications before, but prior designs face formidable physics/technology issues, largely overcome with the present approach.« less