Space News: US attacks UK to launch nuclear fusion rocket for ‘next generation’ travel | Science | New
Nuclear fusion is considered the “Holy Grail” energy source because it opens up the possibility of creating unlimited power by harnessing the same power created by our Sun. While on Earth it has the potential to generate unlimited clean energy once the code is cracked (how to get the reaction to use less energy than it creates), in space it serves another purpose .
In the UK, Bletchley-based company Pulsar Fusion aims to launch nuclear fusion reactors into space by 2027.
He claims it could propel rockets using so-called nuclear propulsion to travel at staggering speeds that cannot be achieved with conventional rocket engines.
It has been suggested that harnessing nuclear power in space could halve the time it takes to get to Mars and power rockets that could travel beyond our solar system.
Today, across the Atlantic, the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) awarded two prototype contracts “to demonstrate the next generation of nuclear propulsion and power capability for spacecraft” .
The contracts were awarded to two companies, Ultra Safe Nuclear and Avalanche Energy.
The companies want to use nuclear propulsion to operate a spacecraft in cislunar space, the realm between Earth and the Moon.
Ultra Safe Nuclear wants to use something called EmberCore to propel the nuclear-powered rocket.
It is a rechargeable nuclear battery that can be used for propulsion and power.
The DIU said: “This ‘next generation’ radioisotope system will be able to scale to 10 times higher power levels, compared to plutonium systems, and deliver over one million kilowatt hours (kWh ) of energy in just a few kilograms of fuel.”
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Avalanche Energy wants to use what is called an Orbiton to trap fusion ions in electrostatic fields.
DIU explained: “The resulting fusion combustion then produces the energetic particles that generate heat or electricity, which can power a high-efficiency propulsion system.
“Compared to other fusion concepts, Orbitron devices hold promise for space applications because they can be reduced in size and allow their use as both a propulsion and power source.”
While the United States aims to get its nuclear power systems in space by 2027, Pulsar Fusion said its first prototype propulsion engines are expected by 2025.
Since fusion rocket technology currently only works in the vacuum of space, Pulsar has developed and tested hybrid rocket engines.
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Hyper-fast propulsion engines use a process in which a “green” (non-toxic) hybrid engine burns nitrous oxide (N2O) oxidizer and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) fuel and oxygen.
The company’s latest explosions took place at the National Space Propulsion Test Facility at the Westcott Space Cluster on March 15 and 16.
Richard Dinan, CEO of Pulsar Fusion, said: “This is truly a game-changing moment unfolding on British soil and could be the first innovative step in transforming not just modern space travel, but the way this planet consumes. his energy.
“Our tests last year were a great success and paved the way for firing in the UK. These tests are extremely important and we are proud that this rocket is entirely built in Britain.