Advanced Rocketry

A Laser-Powered Interstellar Ramjet

July 24, 2012

Many of the interstellar concepts I write about in these pages take on a life of their own. After the initial brainstorming, the idea gets widely enough disseminated that other scientists take it on, looking to modify and improve on the original concept. That’s been true in the case of solar sails and the more […]

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A Closer Look at Medusa

July 23, 2012

I see that ‘Zarmina’ is back in the news. The informal designation refers to Gliese 581 g, an exoplanet candidate announced by the Lick-Carnegie team in an effort led by Steven Vogt (UC-Santa Cruz). First you see it, then you don’t — Gl 581 g has been controversial from the start, and is now the […]

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Fusion and the Starship: Early Concepts

June 27, 2012

Having looked at the Z-pinch work in Huntsville yesterday, we’ve been kicking around the question of fusion for propulsion and when it made its first appearance in science fiction. The question is still open in the comments section and I haven’t been able to pin down anything in the World War II era, though there […]

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Z-Pinch: Powering Up Fusion in Huntsville

June 26, 2012

The road to fusion is a long slog, a fact that began to become apparent as early as the 1950s. It was then that the ZETA — Zero-Energy Toroidal (or Thermonuclear) Assembly — had pride of place as the fusion machine of the future, or so scientists working on the device in the UK thought. […]

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Project Bifrost: Return to Nuclear Rocketry

January 26, 2012

Back in the days when I was studying Old Icelandic (this was a long time ago, well before Centauri Dreams), I took a bus out of Reykjavik for the short journey to Þingvellir, where the Icelandic parliament was established in the 10th Century. It was an unusually sunny day but that afternoon the storms rolled […]

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NIAC Looking for New Proposals

January 18, 2012

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program has issued a second call for proposals, following the selection of its first round of Phase I concepts in 2011. NIAC (formerly the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts) ran from 1998 to 2007 in the capable hands of Robert Cassanova, who is now external council chair for the new organization. […]

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Can Project Orion Be Re-Born?

November 15, 2011

Project Orion keeps surfacing in propulsion literature and making the occasional appearance on the broader Internet. A case in point is a vigorous defense of Orion-style engineering by Gary Michael Church on the Lifeboat Foundation blog. Church is rightly taken with the idea of propelling payloads massing thousands of tons around the Solar System, but […]

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Starship Fuel from the Outer System

June 1, 2011

Adrian Mann has done it again, as witness his illustration of a gas mining operation on Uranus, reproduced below. The idea, as explored by Adam Crowl on Discovery News this morning, is to acquire vast amounts of helium-3 to supply not only Earth’s energy needs but the fusion engines of the Project Icarus star probe. […]

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Refining the Deuterium Starship

October 26, 2009

by Adam Crowl Adam Crowl has been following Friedwardt Winterberg’s fusion concepts for some time, and now weighs in with a look at Winterberg’s latest thinking on the use of deuterium reactions in advanced propulsion designs. If fusion is our best bet for interstellar missions, we need to get past the limitations of deuterium/tritium, which […]

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Lightcraft Experiments Continue

September 15, 2009

The last time we developed a new way of reaching orbit was back in the 1950s. How useful, then, to come up with one that allows huge weight reduction because it leaves propellant and energy source on the ground. Keeping the fuel at home or harvesting it along the way are key ways to conceptualize […]

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