Pulsar Fusion, a British aerospace startup is creating a fusion rocket to travel 500,000 mph allowing humans to explore places that are currently far out of reach.
Long-term exposure to microgravity and cosmic radiation can cause serious health issues for astronauts. That means NASA needs to keep its future Mars missions short enough that astronauts come home healthy in less than 4 years.
Using our current rocket propulsion technology it’s going to take seven months just to get astronauts to Mars. Factor in the amount of time to get back to Earth, and nearly a third of a Mars astronaut’s mission is just going to be dedicated to the commute.
The company believes it can cut the time it takes to reach Mars in half by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, the same process that fuels the sun.
The company’s CEO Richard Dinan said, ‘Humanity has a huge need for faster propulsion in our growing space economy, and fusion offers 1,000 times the power of the conventional ion thrusters currently used in orbit’
Fusion occurs when two atoms merge. This releases a tremendous amount of energy, without generating harmful emissions that’s long made harnessing nuclear fusion a holy grail of clean energy research.
By containing super hot plasma within electromagnetic fields, several groups have managed to trigger fusion reactions.
Scientists have not been able to control the turbulent plasma as it is heated to hundreds of millions of degrees and the reaction simply stops.
Pulsar Fusion’s plan is to create a fusion rocket using the atomic reaction to create exhaust speeds that ultimately propel the spacecraft forward at a blistering 500,000 mph, the fastest a crewed rocket has ever flown is 24,791 mph.
A pulsar propulsion engineer Adam Baker said, ‘Fusion rocket could allow us to send people to Mars and bring them back in weeks, not months or years, It could allow us to do round trips to the outer planets of the solar system, to send people to see the rings of Saturn or the moons of Jupiter.
Pulsar recently partnered with aerospace R&D company Princeton Satellite Systems (PSS) for a study that will use AI to model the behavior of hot plasma in a fusion rocket engine. It has also announced that it has begun constructing an eight-meter fusion reaction chamber in the UK.
Its goal is to begin firing that chamber in 2025 and achieving fusion temperatures by 2027. The next step after that would be conducting a test firing in orbit proving that a fusion rocket could potentially power the next era of space exploration.
If the Pulsar rocket test can achieve fusion temperatures at its demonstration to Aerospace partners in 2027, then the technology has the potential to half mission times to Mars, reduce flight time to Saturn from 8 years to 2, and ultimately empower humanity to leave our solar system.