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Fusion rockets

PPT on fusion rockets
A fusion rocket is a theoretical design for a rocket powered by a fusion power that could provide efficient and long term acceleration in space without the need to carry a large fuel supply. The design relies on the development of fusion power technology beyond the current capabilities, and the construction of much larger and more complex rockets than any current spacecraft. A smaller, lighter fusion reactor could be possible in the future when more sophisticated methods have been designed to control magnetic confinement and prevent plasma instabilities. Inertial fusion could provide a lighter and more compact alternative, such as a fusion engine based on a FRC.

For spaceflight, the main advantage of fusion would be the very high specific thrust, and the main disadvantage of the (probably) large reactor mass. However, a fusion rocket can produce less radiation than a fission rocket, reducing the mass needed to shield. The safest way to build a fusion rocket with current technology is to use hydrogen bombs as proposed in the Orion Project, but that spacecraft would also be massive and the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty prohibits the use of nuclear bombs. Therefore, the use of nuclear bombs to propel rockets on Earth is problematic, but it is possible in space in theory. An alternative approach would be electric (eg, ionic) propulsion with electric power generation through the fusion power instead of direct thrust.

Many spacecraft propulsion methods, such as ion propellers, require an input of electrical power to operate, but are highly efficient. In some cases, its maximum thrust is limited by the amount of power that can be generated (eg, a mass controller). An electric generator that works with fusion power could be installed simply to drive a boat like that. A disadvantage is that conventional electricity production requires a low-temperature energy sink, which is difficult (ie heavy) in a spacecraft. The direct conversion of the kinetic energy of the fusion products into electricity is possible in principle and would mitigate this problem.

An attractive possibility is simply to direct the escape of the fusion product through the back of the rocket to provide thrust without the intermediate production of electricity. This would be easier with some confinement schemes (eg, magnetic mirrors) than with others (eg, tokamaks). It is also more attractive for "advanced fuels" (see aneutronic fusion). Helium-3 propulsion is a proposed spacecraft propulsion method that uses the fusion of helium-3 atoms as a source of energy. Helium-3, an isotope of helium with two protons and a neutron, can be fused with deuterium in a reactor. The resulting energy release could be used to expel the propellant from the back of the spacecraft. Helium-3 is proposed as a source of energy for spacecraft primarily due to its abundance on the moon. Scientists estimate that there are 1 million tonnes of helium-3 present in the moon, mainly due to the solar wind that hits the surface of the moon and deposits it, among other elements, on the ground. Only 20% of the power produced by the D-T reaction could be used in this way; the other 80% is released in the form of neutrons which, because they can not be directed by magnetic fields or solid walls, would be very difficult to use for thrust. Helium-3 is also produced through the beta-disintegration of tritium, which in turn can be produced from deuterium, lithium or boron.

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