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The Direct Fusion Drive That Could Get Us Past Neptune in 10 Years

Scientists have outlined the wild way humans could travel past Neptune in under 10 years—with over 1.5 tons of cargo on board.

The secret is an in-the-works direct fusion drive (DFD), which will kick in once the spacecraft reaches orbit and propel it at up to 44 kilometers per second. From there, the spacecraft could conduct experiments on Neptune as well as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), or outer dwarf planets like Makemake, Eris, and Haumea.

The DFD is a nuclear reactor being developed by Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Princeton Satellite Systems that uses pure deuterium as the fuel to generate both thrust and electrical power for the spacecraft. In a new paper published to the preprint server arXiv, scientists from the U.S., Italy, and Russia explain how the DFD works:

“In this DFD the propellant is first ionized, then it enters a region with a strong, externally-imposed, magnetic field. Here, the propellant flows around the engine’s core, inside which nuclear fusion reaction occurs and its products heat up the propellant. Then, the hot propellant expands into a magnetic nozzle, producing thrust.”

Link: The Direct Fusion Drive That Could Get Us Past Neptune in 10 Years

Posted: 04/08/2021 at 11:37AM


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