SF News – A nuclear fusion-powered rocket could enable astronauts travel to Earth’s neighboring planet Mars at speeds considerably faster than before. The current travel speeds using fuel rockets make Mars travel a journey of about four years but the new fusion technology being tested by researchers at the University of Washington promises that in 30 to 90 days.
Experiments done at a Redmond space propulsion company by John Slough of University of Washington say such travel would be possible making many problems associated with long and deep space travel such as extreme costs to disappear.
The lab tests have proven to be successful on each part of the process and the scientists are now planning to combine the sections into a one final and overall test.
The team has developed a technology using a special type of plasma that will be encased in a magnetic field. When the plasma is compressed with high pressure by the magnetic field, nuclear fusion takes place.
The process has successfully been tested by researchers and they plan on having the first full test to be done by the end of this summer.
In practice the powerful magnetic field causes large metal rings surrounding the plasma to implode which will compress it to the point of fusion. The process takes only a few microseconds but that will be enough to release heat and ionize the rings that form a shell around the plasma. The super-heated ionized metal, in turn, ejects out from the rocket at a high velocity pushing the rocket forward. Repeating the process in intervals of about 30 seconds or more can propel a spaceship.
The research was funded by NASA in hopes that the technology would ultimately replace rocket fuel and yield to much faster spacecrafts that ever built before. Scientist say that just a grain size of the material from the plasma used can equal to a gallon of rocket fuel. That by itself will reduce the size of the spacecraft and the payload considerably making deep space travel much more cost effective.