MagBeam Propulsion - To Mars And Back In 90 Days

Magnetized-beam plasma propulsion, or magbeam propulsion, could cut the time required for long journeys around the solar system from years to weeks.


(From Mag-beam propulsion)

The MagBeam propulsion system is being developed at the University of Washington; earth and space sciences professor Robert Winglee is leading the project.

"We're trying to get to Mars and back in 90 days," Winglee said. "Our philosophy is that, if it's going to take two-and-a-half years, the chances of a successful mission are pretty low."
People usually think of a spacecraft as a ship with both payload and power source. The MagBeam system separates these two logical units; the power source stays in one place (for example, in permanent orbit around the Earth). Spacecraft are pushed to other parts of the solar system.

Advantages of MagBeam Propulsion

MagBeam propulsion offers significant advantages over conventional rockets:
  • One power source could be used to power multiple craft (serially, not at the same time).
  • The power source could use solar energy, resulting in additional cost savings.
  • Plasma propellants are accelerated to speeds an order of magnitude greater than those achieved by chemical rocket propellants, resulting in higher spacecraft velocities - at least 26,000 miles per hour.
  • A round trip to Mars would take 2 1/2 years using current technology. If the trip time could be shortened, many other difficulties (like the quantity of consumables and the psychological effects on the astronauts) could be greatly eased.

How MagBeam Propulsion Works

The system requires a power source at each end of a journey; one to accelerate the spacecraft at the start and another at the destination, to decelerate it. The spacecraft simply coasts during the journey from planet to planet. Once MagBeam power sources are placed at destinations around the solar system, the system can be operated using solar power alone.

MagBeam depends upon a highly collimated plasma beam. The high power helicon (HPH) under development at the University of Washington is a state-of-the-art electrodeless plasma thruster, which allows high power levels to be generated over long periods of time with little erosion of the system. The plasma is generated by high power radio frequency waves; as a result, HPH is substantially smaller than other plasma thrusters.


(From High Power Helicon)

The spacecraft will need to have a deflector system to accept the energy from the HPH. This can be achieved by plasma magnet systems; plasma effects are used to make an initially large magnetic deflector. The system is self-focussing. Click to see a video showing deflection and self-focussing.


(From MagBeam Deflector System)

So when can we expect a MagBeam test mission? According to Dr. Winglee, within 5 years if funding remains consistent. Residents of Seattle can attend the NASA Advanced Concepts Institute meeting early this week to learn more.

The idea of separating the spacecraft and its payload from its power source was first explored in science fiction in the excellent 1974 novel Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. In the book, a battery of laser cannon were used to accelerate a small ship with a light sail to a significant fraction of the speed of light. The original idea for a laser-based propulsion system is credited to Robert L. Forward and dates from 1961. You may also enjoy this article on Solar Windsurfing; it provides an interesting precursor to the idea of laser cannon.

See the original article New propulsion concept could make 90-day Mars round trip possible.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/16/2004)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 29 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

A Look Into The Future Of Spacecraft!
Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft?

Breakthrough Starshot Sprites Yearn For Alpha Centauri
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon...' - Niven and Pournelle, 1971.

Astronaut Exercise Video, Predicted By SF Writers
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses.' - Murray Leinster, 1953.

JAXA's Int-Ball Drone To Follow Astronauts In Space Station
'I want you to build me some of those.' MIT Professor David Miller, 1999.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

MULTI Model Of Star Trek Turbolift
Cool prototype video!

A Look Into The Future Of Spacecraft!
Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft?

An 'Ethical Black Box' For Robots?
Explored by science fiction authors.

Dadbot Digital Immortality
'A hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills...'

Should We Permit Computers To Create Their Own Language?
'Talk Between Robots radio...'

Breakthrough Starshot Sprites Yearn For Alpha Centauri
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon...'

Kino Project Roaming Personal Fashion Robots
'Most of the crew have the tiny imp ride on their shoulder...'

Astronaut Exercise Video, Predicted By SF Writers
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses.'

First Crewless Ship? Umm
Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship?

RFID Chipped Employees Of Three Square Market
'About a third of the people in Manhattan have replaced their Freedom Card with a radio-frequency chip...'

JAXA's Int-Ball Drone To Follow Astronauts In Space Station
'I want you to build me some of those.'

Amazon Patents Annoying Robot That Follows You
'The... machine, being homotropic, headed toward them, still bleating...'

Hand Gestures And Body Poses Control Devices
'He waved his hand... the circuit switched...'

Rovable Robots Crawl Across Your Body
'Most of the crew have the tiny imp ride on their shoulder...'

Sansar Social Virtual Reality Platform In 2017?
'And just as a daydreamer forgets his actual surroundings, and sees other realities...'

Cellphone Harvests Power From Ambient Radio Signals And Light
A battery-free phone.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.