A high-efficiency plasma drive designed for faster interplanetary journeys may be lifted into space by a privately-developed launcher. The candidates for the job include PayPal zillionaire Elon Musk's Falcon 9 rocket. Flight International reports today that Dr Franklin Chang-Díaz, former astronaut and inventor of the Variable …
Isn't SpaceX also part of the COTS program?
I was under the impression, from the mailings sent out by SpaceX, that the company is also part of the COTS programme for NASA as well as a similar program for military payload launches.
This article makes it sound like the COTS idea is a failure and some alternative means needed to be found. Since SpaceX is part of that idea, then it must be nominally sucessful.
"nominally" since the Falcon booster has yet to successfully park a payload into orbit. Soon, but not yet.
Private space couriers vie for NASA deliveries
No delivery and a card stuck through the airlock if they don't open the hatch within 10 seconds.....
Obligatory sci-fi reference
So now we have an "impulse" drive. Now someone just needs to invent a warp drive...
Mars in 39 Days!
I think we have a winner here. With a 39-day voyage, manned flight to Mars suddenly turns into something much more feasible!
All we need now is to get a smallish nuclear reactor in space.
I didn't think the article implies that the COTS program is a failure, just that a couple of the contenders have yet to get anything off the ground ;-)
As to a source of power, perhaps one of these new billionaires would care to invest in Prof Bussard's mini-fusion project?
39 Days to Mars?
Low-impulse, long duration drives (e.g. plasma) can help spacecraft achieve high velocities but, if you want to get off, you need to spend as much time slowing down again. So, is that 78 days? Still, it beats current technology's 6 - 12 months (depending upon the year of launch).
And... how do you get down/up from the planet since the drive doesn't have enough power to overcome Mars gravity?
I would think the time they mention includes deceleration as well. They aren't that daft.
Also, didn't you see the news? Martian soil is stuff full of the chmicals needed to make rocket fuel. All they'd need to do is drop a manufacturing plant on the surface and have it make fuel before the ship even lands. Of course the first trip would probably want to take its own fuel with it for the take-off, just in case the production plant isn't working...
RE: 39 Days to Mars?
"And... how do you get down/up from the planet since the drive doesn't have enough power to overcome Mars gravity?"
One way would be to send a lander into orbit prior to the astronauts' arrival that may be used. Possibly refueling/supply landers to be sent ahead also. Then there is the possiblity of making launch fuel from natural resources on Mars since water, in the form of ice, is available. One other choice would be to have a lander shipped along with the astronauts, but, IMHO, this would add too much mass.
RE: 39 Days to Mars
The 39 day estimate obviously includes slowing down. You just bring a lander with you. It's brain-dead simple. This is what they did with Apollo, and it's what they're going to do with Orion.
With Orion you have the "Earth Departure Stage", Altair lander and Orion capsule docked together to drive way out and yonder.
A possible scheme might be to replace that EDS with one using VASIMR and a nuclear reactor. Then you could cruise all around the solar system with your Altair lander and whatnot.
...we just need to get all this guff into orbit.
Naval reactor really needed?
Obviously nuclear power will have to get into space despite the hippies. But do we really need a naval reactor to power an ion drive? Shouldn't more mundane nuclear batteries work(or at least something that uses fuel that won't power a nuke)?
There are some problems with your comment: * A space elevator is required.
See title. Enough said.
"Nuclear batteries" I assume means RTGs? Those don't give you much more power than solar cells. They're great for missions to Jupiter and beyond, and last a really long time. But they aren't powerhouses. An RTG like NASA's might give you several hundred watts.
Another non-nuclear space option is fuel cells. These don't last. They Space Shuttle, for example, can't operate for more than two to three weeks because of limitations of it's fuel cells. Even if you're sucking power from the station, the cells _leak_. There advantages make them _great_ for the brief jaunts to LEO that the Shuttle is designed for.
There are batteries, which just aren't energy dense. They give too little power for their weight, and you're better off with solar.
Fusion and combustion are not relevant. (Even if fusion was made to work, it scales _up_ very well but we need something that scales _down_.)
(All this, by the way, is one reason I don't see Apollo's sample return being faked robotically. Electricity is a bitch to come by in space. Sometimes the height of technology really is a man with a shovel.)
Which brings us to nuclear fission. Technically we're not talking about a naval reactor, it's just an example. You need an orbital nuclear reactor. The Soviets did this a few times, and NASA had a project going at recently as the late 90s.
Nuclear fission is the only power source in the foreseeable future that will suffice.
And you know NASA can't do that right? I mean the Navy can send nuclear powered battleships with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles (true slaughterfest devices) but if NASA tried to use a tiny bit of plutonium to study Saturn, everyone shits a brick.
Surely the title should read:
"Elon Musk might deliver new plasma drive halfway to ISS."
Mine's the one with 'SpaceX - The answer's "BANG!", now what's the question?' on the back.
Re: Obligatary Sci-Fi Reference
Considering that the British Interplanetry Society held a Warp Drive Symposium dealing with said subject last November, they concluded a working warp drive might exist within a time period of 30-300 years, depending on when we can generate "negative energy", & assuming we survive that long....
Mine's the labcoat with the Dilithium crystals in the pocket....
@ Isn't SpaceX also part of the COTS program?
Isn't Elon Musk SpaceX? if so then yes as stated Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon9 is part of COTS.
Obligatory Sci-Fi ref #2
In 2001, the Discovery was powered by a nuclear-reactor driven, hydrogen fuelled plasma engine. Glad to see the facts are catching up .
Where the BEEF Chang-Diaz ?
His propulsion technology is useless and expensive. No hydrogen
gas stations in space.
For something that will change it all go here.
Re:Obligatory Sci-Fi ref #2
By the time Arthur C Clarke wrote 2010:Odysssey Two, the Discovery's plasma engine had somehow changed fuels from Hydrogen to Ammonia...
Apparently Mr Clarke had found out, that the liquid Hydrogen fuel, would have
"evapourated", at the molecular level, from the Discovery's fuel tanks, over the 9 year period, before the Alexi Leonov arrived to investigate....