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starship-design: JPL Research & Technology Report

This is a quote from a NASA report about the ICAN project:

"Pennsylvania State University Antiproton-Catalyzed Micro-Fission/Fusion 

This picture illustrates the antiproton-catalyzed micro-fission/fusion 
concept under development at Pennsylvania State University. In this 
approach to inertial confinement fusion (ICF) propulsion, a pellet 
containing uranium (U) fission fuel and deuterium-tritium (D-T) fusion fuel 
is compressed by lasers, ion beams, etc. At the time of peak compression, 
the target is bombarded with a small number (~100 million) of antiprotons 
to catalyze the U fission process. (For comparison, ordinary U fission 
produces around 2 neutrons per fission; by contrast, antiproton-induced U 
fission has been experimentally observed to produce about 16 neutrons per 
fission.) The fission energy release then triggers a high-efficiency fusion 
burn to heat the propellant, resulting in an expanding plasma used to 
produce thrust. Interestingly, unlike "pure" antimatter propulsion concepts 
which use large amounts of antimatter (because all of the propulsive energy 
is supplied by matter-antimatter annihilation), this concept uses 
antimatter in amounts that we can produce today with existing technology 
and facilities. Also, because much of the fusion ignition energy comes from 
the initial fission reaction, it may be possible to employ simpler pellet 
compression "drivers" (e.g., lasers, etc.) and use aneutronic (non-neutron 
producing) fuels like D-He3."

The last sentence explains my optimism for this concept. There are other 
aneutronic reactions that liberate even more energy. If we can scale this 
up just a little more...

The full report can be found at: 


                                                          (o o)
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;

William Allingham, Ireland, 1850