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Re: starship-design: Plasma power

"L. Parker" wrote:

> Today, 40 years later, we have achieved a mastery of the fusion
> process impossible to even imagine when Project Orion was first
> conceived. We can, using a small supply of anti-protons initiate
> fusion on a microscopic scale and liberate within the confines of a
> magnetic nozzle a miniature hydrogen bomb. The efficiency of this
> process is thousands of times higher than Project Orion and still
> maintains a respectable thrust. Of course, this is "bleeding" edge
> research, meaning that it is not quite ready for prime time.

That is not the problem -- antimatter is hard to come by.
I have not seen any do it your self anti-proton kits at the local
Radio Shack. :) Fusion kits are scarce too.

> VASIMR is an entirely different approach. It does not seek to achieve
> fusion, just the thrust and high efficiency that are traditionally
> thought of as being achievable only by a fusion engine. It works by
> ionizing a fuel and then feeding it into what amounts to a large,
> extremely powerful microwave tube where energy is pumped in until a
> plasma is formed. The plasma then escapes into a magnetic nozzle which
> accelerates the escaping plasma even further before it finally exits
> the engine.
> For interplanetary purposes, this engine is ideal. Since it is
> controllable in the amount of fuel and energy applied, it can be tuned
> for either high thrust or high efficiency, or somewhere in between. A
> cargo flight for instance could be programmed for  a high thrust
> transfer that would reach Mars in a few weeks at very high but brief
> acceleration. A crew carrying vessel on the other hand could
> accelerate more gradually, and continuously, without using up all of
> its fuel. This is a rather simplified presentation, but essentially
> accurate.

This engine still requires a energy source for propulsion.
Solar energy or beamed microwaves is required. Speaking of
microwaves here is a great light source for non earth habitats.

"We do not inherit our time on this planet from our parents...
 We borrow it from our children."
"Ancient Logic" http://www.jetnet.ab.ca/users/bfranchuk/al/index.html