Plasma rocket in new test with Brit supermagnet fitted
Posted by keelynet on July 19, 2009
This has all kinds of applications.
“A radical electrically-powered space rocket which has the potential to cut months or years off travel times to other planets has achieved a further successful test today.
The new milestone for the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) was achieved with the aid of a crucial new component – a superconducting magnet made in Britain.
Today’s tests build on the achievements of the VX-200i, the engine’s non-superconducting predecessor, which last fall underwent similar tests but under a greatly reduced set of requirements.
A major difference between the two is the superconducting magnet, featured in the present system, which provides a ten-fold increase in the magnetic field and enables operation of the engine under conditions consistent with actual space flight.
The idea of the VASIMR is to use electric power to blast plasma reaction mass out of the engine at much higher velocities than can be achieved using normal chemically-powered rockets. This means that a VASIMR spacecraft would get hugely more poke out of a given amount of fuel, enabling it to travel through space at much higher speeds.
The tech can’t develop enough thrust to lift itself out of Earth’s gravity, but once beyond the atmosphere it would leave today’s interplanetary probes – which mainly coast through space – far behind. Chang Díaz believes that VASIMR could usefully glean its electric power from solar panels if it was operating close to the sun (Mars would be the extreme outer limit) or from onboard nuclear reactors further away. He calculates that a nuclear VASIMR craft could get to Mars in just 39 days, as opposed to the many months a chemical-rocket ship would take.” – Source
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