Advanced Rocketry

The Nuclear Rocket Option

January 14, 2013

Tim Folger and Les Johnson (NASA MSFC) stood last summer in front of a nuclear rocket at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Johnson’s work in advanced propulsion concepts is well known to Centauri Dreams readers, but what he was talking to Folger about in an article for National Geographic was an older technology. […]

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ASPW 2012: A Report from Huntsville

December 4, 2012

Richard Obousy, a familiar face on Centauri Dreams, is president and primary propulsion senior scientist for Icarus Interstellar, whose portfolio includes Project Icarus, the redesign of the Project Daedalus starship. Dr. Obousy is just back from the latest Advanced Space Propulsion Workshop and, as he did for the 2010 ASPW, he now offers his take […]

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Skylon: Promising Tests of the SABRE Engine

December 3, 2012

The news from Reaction Engines Ltd. about its air-breathing rocket engine SABRE is interesting not only for its implications in near-term space development, but also for its pedigree. Reaction Engines grew out of British work on a single-stage-to-orbit concept called HOTOL ((Horizontal Take-Off and Landing) that was being developed by Rolls Royce and British Aerospace […]

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More on the Starship ‘Slingshot’ Maneuver

November 20, 2012

Although we ordinarily think of Stanislaw Ulam in connection with pulse propulsion — and in particular with the Orion concept, in which nuclear devices are exploded behind the spacecraft — the scientist was also investigating other propulsion ideas. It puts yesterday’s discussion of Freeman Dyson’s ‘gravitational machines’ into context to realize that Ulam was writing […]

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Conceiving the Laser-Fusion Starship

November 16, 2012

When young Rod Hyde, fresh out of MIT, started working on starship design in mid-1972, there were not many fusion-based precedents for what he was up to. He had taken a summer job that would turn into a career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, but right off the bat he was involved with Lowell Wood […]

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Al Jackson: A Laser Ramjet Reminiscence

July 26, 2012

by A. A. Jackson It’s always good when you can go to the source, which I am delighted to do with this reminiscence by Al Jackson, whose laser-powered ramjet (and laser-powered interstellar rocket) ideas we’ve been looking at for the past few days. Al recalls discovering the work of Eugen Sänger back around 1960 and […]

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Rocketry on a Beam of Light

July 25, 2012

The year after Al Jackson, working with Daniel Whitmire, published his concept of a laser-powered interstellar ramjet, the duo returned in the pages of JBIS with a spinoff design. The issue was obvious: Central to Robert Bussard’s ramjet design was the idea that the spacecraft would carry no fuel, but collect reaction mass from the […]

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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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