Forget Mars, Let's Do Saturn

November 3, 2020

Saturn is approximately 742.5 million miles from Earth.  Spacecraft like Pioneer 11 have been there before, but it took over 6 years.  Now, a key technology is being developed to shorten the trip down to 2 years and make interplanetary travel something that’s not limited to sci fi movies.

Engage warp drive.  The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the name you can’t say three times fast, is developing a conceptual direct fusion drive.  It’s a rocket propulsion system that intends to make chop suey of the trip from Earth to Saturn.  Just keep in mind, you can’t join Star Fleet Academy just yet, it’s a theoretical system that won’t be ready for another 30 years.  

Details on the direct fusion drive engine

Check out this quote from their press release:

“[T]he engine itself exploits many of the advantages of aneutronic fusion, most notably an extremely high power-to-weight ratio,” a press release reads. “The fuel for a DFD drive can vary slightly in mass and contains deuterium and a helium-3 isotope. Essentially, the DFD takes the excellent specific impulse of electric propulsion systems and combines it with the excellent thrust of chemical rockets, for a combination that melds the best of both flight systems.” 

Cool, this is just like how your hybrid electric car switches between electric and gas …uhh, yah right.


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