I've been working through a thought experiment with a friend of mine, with some of my previous questions already being (very helpfully) answered on here :)
Here's the current issue I have though - Engines.
So my project is a fairly large 'ship', that doesn't need to get anywhere particularly fast, but can't be too ridiculously slow. As chemical rockets would require huge amounts of fuel, it seemed like the better solution was to go with an Ion drive instead.
Because of the mass of the ship though, this meant stacking up a few VASIMRs. Which, as far as Xenon (or whatever propellant) goes, it's pretty good. Constant (very small) acceleration will gradually pick things up. If you can generate 200MW of power.
And this is where I hit the next wall, and the 'false economy'. In order to generate that kind of power, you would need 150,000m3/h of hydrogen (in a hydrogen generator). I can't find information on the usage of nuclear fuel, but I suspect it's not insubstantial. It's also about 800 acres of solar panels, apparently.
So while the Ion engine is much more fuel efficient as far as propellant goes, it seems to trade that for another type of fuel. Which is fine for small-scale probes which can utilise solar energy, but not for the big boys.
So I have hit a wall, where even for relatively short range (such as mars or the asteroid belt) trips, we don't seem to have the capability to power a ship to our destination.
I've written this to mostly explain my process thus far, and so to ask the question -
What would be the way to power a ship with a mass of many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of tonnes, from LEO to LMO or the asteroid belt? Within the lifetimes of the people on board, preferably haha. Cos I'm stumped.