June 14, 2024

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The journey to Mars will take 2 months instead of 9 months. Will plasma missiles become a reality?

The journey to Mars will take 2 months instead of 9 months. Will plasma missiles become a reality?

The journey to Mars will take 2 months instead of 9 months. Will plasma missiles become a reality?

Photo: Howe Industries

How realistic is space travel for humans? It all depends on how quickly, efficiently and cheaply you can get to your destination, and whether there are ships that can get you there.

Therefore, NASA is looking for a new propulsion system in cooperation with technology development companies.

Only two months until Mars

Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is a program administered by NASA. Different concepts of human development are applied and selected for this programme. The NIAC program has advanced six studies to Phase II where they can continue with more funding.advertisement.

John Nelson of the NIAC Program Executive Office is excited about the new propulsion system, the plasma rocket, which he describes as a “sci-fi-like concept.”

If this were achieved, the current nine-month journey to Mars could be shortened to two months.

Pulse plasma missile

R&D is conducted by Howe Industries, headquartered in Arizona, USA. Rockets use the energy of nuclear fission to reach very high speeds in a short period of time.

This propulsion system generates a controllable plasma jet to propel the rocket through space. If achieved, the missile would have a maximum thrust of 22,481 pounds (100,000 Newtons) and a specific pulse of 5,000 seconds. It's not the unit I normally use, so it doesn't make a lot of sense, but it makes it much faster and more fuel efficient.

So, if we continue to achieve this outstanding fuel efficiency, we will be able to reach Mars in just two months. Currently, it takes 9 months one way, significantly reducing travel time. It is also said to be capable of handling heavier payloads than existing missiles.

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Benefits of short travel

First of all, whether traveling globally or locally, the shorter the travel time, the better. When it comes to space travel, the length of a long flight varies.

Life on a ship has limited space. Stress of it. The longer your trip, the more food you'll need to bring with you. Muscle strength also decreases. I'm also worried about getting sick on the plane. Above all, being in outer space exposes you to cosmic radiation.

This is why astronauts must spend as much time as possible at their destination, and the shorter the travel time, the better.

Plasma missiles have been studied for a long time

The concept of plasma rockets has been around at NASA for some time. For example, in 2018, it was researched under the name “Pulsed Fission-Fusion System”. The goal of this research with Howe Industries is to make it simpler, smaller, and more cost effective.

The second phase of the NIAC program includes evaluation of the system's nuclear properties (how the plasma interacts with the motion of the spacecraft), design of the spacecraft, the power system, and necessary peripheral systems, analysis of magnetic shear capabilities, and development of pulsed plasma rockets. The company plans to focus on determining the benefits and path of the project. There is a lot to do.

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