What sorts of peculiarities might affect an electromagnetic rocket (VASIMR or Magneto-Inertial Fusion) crossing Jupiter's radiation belts? Could all of that energy fry a magnetic thrust chamber and disable the engine?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Or even just make it inoperable for the duration of the radiation (not necessarily fry it). Considering the majority of the energy consumed by the engine is used to keep the plasma ionized, a little bit of ionizing radiation is not likely to hurt the plasma itself. However, electronics, superconductors, plasma sensors for feedback/control are all up for grabs! Also, the charged particles in the radiation belts interact with the planet's magnetic field, and there may be some room for intrigue in there somewhere as well. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 23, 2017 at 2:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: right. While the energies employed by these engines for propulsion make what the belts create negligible, you're quite correct the radiation will be hurting control and feedback circuitry. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Apr 23, 2017 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ That's what I'm thinking...some outside force that might make an engine chuff just long enough to seriously screw up an Oberth burn en route to the Kuiper belt. 'Cause fiction's no fun if everything is just peachy. $\endgroup$
    – PHChilly
    Apr 24, 2017 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps some interaction with the radiation belt that throws the magnetic coils out of whack and changes the nozzle expansion ratio. If the field's not consistently strong enough to channel that fusion plasma, you could end up with a cooked nozzle. Does that sound plausible? $\endgroup$
    – PHChilly
    Apr 24, 2017 at 16:37


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.