Fusion Reactions and Matter-Antimatter Annihilation for Space Propulsion
CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE ORSAY (FRANCE)
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Magnetic confinement fusion MCF and inertial confinement fusion ICF are critically contrasted in the context of far-distant travels throughout solar system. Both are shown to potentially display superior capabilities for vessel maneuvring at high speed, which are unmatched by standard cryogenic propulsion SCP. Costs constraints seem less demanding than for ground-based power plants. Main issue is the highly problematic takeoff from earth, in view of safety hazards concomitant to ratioactive spills in case of emergency. So, it is recommended to assemble the given powered vessel at high earth altitude 700 km, above upper atmosphere. Fusion propulsion is also compared to fission powered one, which secures a factor of two improvement over SCP. As far a specific impulse sec is considered, one expects 500-3000 from fission and as much as 104 - 105 from fusion through deuterium-tritium. Next, we turn attention to the most performing fusion reaction, i.e. protonantiproton annihilation with specific impulse 103 - 106 and thrust-to-weight ratio 10-3 - 1. Production and costs are timely reviewed. The latter could drop by 4 orders of magnitude, which is possible with successful MCF or ICF. Appropriate vessel designs will be presented for fusion as well as for antimatter propulsion. In particuclar, ICAN-II project to Mars in 30 days with fusion catalyzed by 140 ng of antiprotons will be detailed specific impulse 13500 sec.
- Nuclear Propulsion
- Unmanned Spacecraft