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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

NASA Inertial Drive With a Helical Engine Using a Particle Accelerator

•, by Brian Wang

Burns goal is to use proven physics and technology

• Focus on extreme duration
• Current state-of-the-art is not sufficient, but has potential to scale

Megawatts of power + space-rated synchrotron = 1 N of thrust
• Not a compelling reason to build this engine
• However
• Equivalent Specific Impulse over 10^17
• "Net" power less than 10 watts
• Options for increasing thrust and efficiency
• Technology is extension of space flown hardware
• Many technical challenges ahead
• Basic concept is unproven
• Has not been reviewed by subject matter experts
• Math errors may exist!

A new concept for in-space propulsion is proposed in which propellant is not ejected from the engine, but instead is captured to create a nearly infinite specific impulse. The engine accelerates ions confined in a loop to moderate relativistic speeds, and then varies their velocity to make slight changes to their mass. The engine then moves ions back and forth along the direction of travel to produce thrust. This in-space engine could be used for long-term satellite station-keeping without refueling. It could also propel spacecraft across interstellar distances, reaching close to the speed of light. The engine has no moving parts other than ions traveling in a vacuum line, trapped inside electric and magnetic fields.