Friday, September 21, 2007

Mini-Mag Orion

The original Orion project was headed by Ted Taylor from General Atomics, who together with the famous physicist Freeman Dyson suggested ejecting nuclear explosives behind a spacecraft in order to propel it forward. The Mini-Mag system uses a magnetic field in order to trigger an explosion of compressed material in the form of small pellets weighing several grams. This explosion, although being significantly weaker than a nuclear explosion, creates plasma that is directed through a magnetic nozzle to generate vehicle thrust. The proposed technology enables the production of thrust at high efficiency, hopefully allowing drastic reduction of interplanetary travel time. According to calculations performed by AS&T, this type of propulsion system can produce the same thrust as the Space Shuttle Main Engine, with 50 times more efficiency.
Due to the magnetic compression thrust technology, spacecrafts could be smaller and less heavy. The spacecraft itself will only have to carry a relatively small amount of fissionable material as fuel and will be able to reach speeds of approximately 10% of the speed of light. Dr. Dana Andrews, AS&T Chief Technology Officer and Mini-Mag Orion inventor, and Roger Lenard from the Sandia National Laboratories, have published a paper describing their research into the Mini-Mag Orion concept in the Acta Astronautica – Journal of the International Academy of Astronautics.

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