MagOrion-A Nuclear Propelled MagSail for Human Exploration of the Outer Planets
Manned exploration beyond Mars requires very high specific energy. The only potential solution under discussion is fusion propulsion. However, fusion has been ten years away for forty years. We have an available solution that combines new technology with an old concept ¿ ¿Project Orion¿. The proposed MagOrion Propulsion System combines a magnetic sail (MagSail) with conventional small yield (0.5 to 1.0 kiloton) shaped nuclear fission devices. At detonation, roughly eighty percent of the yield appears as a highly-ionized plasma, and when detonated two kilometers behind a robust MagSail, approximately half of this plasma can be stopped and turned into thrust. A MagOrion can provide a system acceleration of one or more gravities with effective specific impulses ranging from 15,000 to 45,000 seconds. Dana Andrews and Robert Zubrin published a paper in 1997 that described the operating principles of the MagOrion. We have taken that concept through conceptual design to identify the major operational features and risks. During Phase I of the SBIR, we will quantify the system risks and establish either solutions or areas for risk mitigating demonstrations. The risks are considerable, but the potential payoff is staggering. Our proposed MagOrion will enable affordable exploration of the solar system.
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Andrews Space & Technology
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