Questions tagged [advanced-propulsion]

Questions on spacecraft propulsion techniques that are either theoretical or not yet at a high technology readiness level.

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32
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4answers
4k views

Is warp drive a legitimate avenue of scientific investigation?

I've been reading a number of online "pop-sci" articles on the subject of "warp drive" - derived from work done initially by Alcubierre. Some of the most recent articles say that there are ...
27
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8answers
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Why aren't linear aerospike engines in common use?

Linear aerospike engines are an old idea that seem so full of promise. Why are they not widely used today by the likes of Boeing, SpaceX, etc.?
17
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2answers
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Why is the “impossible” space drive impossible?

So apparently NASA just built an impossible propulsion device: Sawyer's engine is extremely light and simple. It provides a thrust by "bouncing microwaves around in a closed container." The ...
16
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3answers
1k views

Pumped propellant propulsion - is it viable?

A recent article on Slashdot got me thinking. While the article is about using electric turbopumps for moving fuel from tanks to engines during launch phase and is just a small, incremental ...
13
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2answers
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Alcubierre “warp” drive and gravitation/orbital considerations

There are a few questions regarding the Alcubierre drive here, so I'll pose this one and see what I get. Currently, our space exploration vehicles, both manned and unmanned, are at the mercy of ...
12
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2answers
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How will the ion thruster powered Dawn spacecraft enter orbit around Ceres?

How is it possible for a ion thruster powered spacecraft like Dawn to decelerate to orbit Ceres? Does it have a secondary engine to accomplish this task?
12
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8answers
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Is it possible to get a spacecraft into earth orbit using Linear Eddy Current Braking on an orbital runway?

The "Space Runway" [I have slightly edited this to clarify some issues that have been raised] Luke Parrish mentioned an unusual and novel space launch method to me. The idea is to get a spacecraft ...
12
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1answer
5k views

What are the most promising non chemical rocket space launch approaches?

I read this essay by Neal Stephenson recently, which makes the case that, had we not been locked-into chemical rocket technology through years of investments, other approaches might have been more ...
11
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2answers
5k views

Solar sail thrust calculation

In Space Mission Engineering: The new SMAD, page 555, section 18.7.2, the following thrust formula is given for a solar sail: $$F=\frac{2RSA}{c}\sin^2\theta=9.113\times10^{-6}\frac{RA}{D^2}\sin^2\...
11
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2answers
1k views

Alcubierre Drive and interacting with matter

What would happen when there is the warping of space occupied by matter? For example, if there is a ship propelled by the Alcubierre Drive, what would happen if it collided with something with mass? ...
10
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2answers
2k views

Would a nuclear propelled spaceship still need a storm shelter?

Assume you have a sophisticated nuclear (thermal or whatever comes to mind) propelled spaceship for your summer vacation on Mars. Half way there Houston calls and informs you about an inbound solar ...
10
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1answer
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What is the performance of ion thrusters in actual deployed spacecraft?

Which spacecraft / satellites currently deployed in space (2015) use ion thruster propulsion and how do they compare? The wikipedia article have some comparative numbers, but some of the engines on ...
9
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3answers
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Teleporting an object into geosynchronous orbit

Assuming that a method was found to teleport objects, and at huge range, if an object was teleported from the surface to a location at the correct height (Wikipedia says about 42,164 km from the earth'...
9
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1answer
929 views

Whats the status of the Dual Stage 4 Grid Ionic Thruster?

There was a lot of talk about it back in '06 when the news came out, and how it could reach a specific impulse approaching 20,000, but I haven't heard any updates on it and the ESA link doesn't work. ...
9
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1answer
676 views

Current Research Being Done on Hall Effect Thrusters

It seems like electric propulsion will be the most viable candidate for current and future interplanetary missions. However, I was wondering what type of research is currently being done on Hall ...
8
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526 views

Can one put a large nickel-iron asteroid into an elliptical solar orbit that results in a soft(ish) earth landing?

My daughter and I are debating whether it is technically feasible to bring a nickel iron asteroid to the surface or the earth non-destructively. I felt it was impossible. Her thought was that with a ...
8
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3answers
408 views

Burn 1st stage structural material as fuel?

Aluminum/Magnesium alloys can burn quite nicely. The stoichiometry is favoriable. Instead of $CO_2$ which is mostly oxidizer by mass, you might end up with $Al_2O_3$ and $MgO$ as exhaust. The ...
8
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3answers
450 views

Harpoon propulsion - what would be the problems?

Let's imagine we have finally developed buckytube rope. A couple hundred kilometers of rope, able to tug a 100-ton craft at 6g acceleration, in a package packable on said craft. A near-earth asteroid ...
8
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1answer
1k views

Is a manned craft powered by Solar Sail feasible from Earth Orbit to Lunar Orbit

Trying to ask a series of questions but I'm breaking up the overall point into easier "chunks" to not make the overall question too broad. Question 1: Designing a craft for transfer from Earth to ...
7
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3answers
2k views

Which theoretical propulsion system has the highest specific impulse?

I know that NERVA physically demonstrated 811 seconds, and the theoretical range for Orion was around 10,000. After stipulating that we can't really know for sure until it's built, given plausible ...
7
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1answer
749 views

Is the propulsion for the Scorpion nuclear-thermal-electric ship concept viable and credible?

Recently I've come across the proposal for the "Scorpion" spacecraft -- I originally ran across it on Project Rho (ctrl-F for it) but it looks like the article was published in the journal ...
7
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3answers
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Is Railgun propulsion being researched?

Specifically: not a "space gun" for launching payloads to space. This subject has been discussed a lot, and I know of the slew of problems and their partial solutions enough. I mean a device mounted ...
7
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1answer
281 views

Does the Oberth effect motivate complementing ion electric propulsion with chemical rocketry?

The solar electric ion propulsion engine of the Dawn spacecraft to Vesta and Ceres used Mars for gravity assist. Would it be gainful to complement an ion engine with a high thrust (solid) chemical ...
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What kind of engine does this Isp = 1600 refer to? Is it cubesat-friendly?

These two good answers (one and two) to the question "Is there a maximum Isp for 'exothermic chemical reaction rockets?'" put the limits around 500-550 seconds for the limits of practical ...
6
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3answers
497 views

What is our ability to capture or reflect photons with a wavelength of $2.5×10^{-12}$ meters?

Can we efficiently reflect or capture photons of that wavelength? More precisely, $ 2.426×10^{-12} $ meters, or $ 1.236 × 10^{20} Hz$ Preferably reflect, but capture followed by re-emission as ...
6
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2answers
1k views

Could cosmic rays be produced by alien propulsion systems?

Could the cosmic radiation of heavy ions which hit us be the exhaust of advanced electric propulsion used by alien space travelers? While supernovae seem to cause part of them, much of it is far from ...
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2answers
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Collecting antimatter from Van Allen radiation belts

I just read an article by John P. Millis, Ph.D which says that antimatter is created in the Van Allen radiation belts. I am writing a novel where a future starship with FTL capability, powered by a ...
5
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2answers
2k views

How does the Sabre engine's pre-cooler achieve such high performance?

The BBC News article Rolls-Royce and Boeing invest in UK space engine about Reaction Engines Limited (REL) and its Sabre engine states REL is developing what it calls the Sabre engine. This power ...
5
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1answer
1k views

What would be the specific impulse of a continuous nuclear fusion drive?

Let's assume problems of running sustained nuclear fusion are overcome (be it by making the mechanism highly energy-positive, or just supplying all the energy deficit externally, like beamed power.) ...
5
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1answer
317 views

Could a sling launcher be used on Mars?

A sling launcher (discussed in this write-up by Landis) is a tower with a motor that spins a hub with two or more cables attached. Payload(s) are attached to the end of one or more cables and ...
5
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3answers
247 views

What would be the challenges of a non-rotating tether orbiting the Moon?

There are examinations of lunar tethers going through the EML1 point, and rotating tethers in various orbits of the Moon. But I haven't seen an examination of a tether in orbit that doesn't rotate. ...
5
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1answer
426 views

Could the helical engine work?

A helical engine is originally described in this NASA Paper; see also the youtube explanation by Anton Petrov The problem may be with powering the device. The original paper uses ions in a toroid to ...
5
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2answers
976 views

Does the detection of gravitational waves prove we can travel faster than the speed of light?

From what I have read gravitational waves cannot travel faster than the speed of light. And since gravitational waves are part of the fabric of space, wouldn't that disprove the idea behind an ...
5
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1answer
241 views

How would Solar Flares affect Solar Sail navigation?

As I understand, Solar Sail runs on dual energy: light pressure and solar wind. While the former is quite deterministic and rigidly following calculations, solar flares create huge bursts of solar ...
5
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2answers
986 views

Could a spaceship be “charged” with kinetic energy instead of having to be propulsed?

Could we use some kind of rotating sling or magnetic loop to accelerate a spaceship to (very) high speed and then release it and hurl it away? Today all spaceships are propelled by engines and some ...
5
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0answers
118 views

What aerothermal effects present significant challenges in supersonic retropropulsion?

One of NASA's plans for future mars entry, descent and landing missions includes an ambitious deceleration process involving retropropulsion in a supersonic airflow environment. I know that previous ...
5
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2answers
2k views

Using Earth's magnetic field for an electric propulsion system

If you were to use a spacecraft built of copper in Earth's magnetic field, could you produce enough energy to propel yourself?
4
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5answers
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What will be the best way to convert nuclear fusion energy into thrust for a rocket?

Best means maximum thrust, safest, easy to maintain. And it's not opinion based because I'm looking for a way that's theoretically feasible and may be practical in a few years. However, if you have an ...
4
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1answer
536 views

How efficient and fast would seven Caplan thrusters be at pushing the Sun and would it be worth building more than one?

I was thinking about stellar engines. One type of stellar engine is the Caplan thruster, which concentrates the star's light onto the star's surface to create beams of solar wind, which are collected ...
4
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1answer
212 views

Which space drive concept would likely be most suitable for Interplanetary travel?

Of the several concepts of space propulsion drives listed for interplanetary launch, travel, and landings, which one should I research? Or is a good ole-fashioned ion drive adequate? Assume that all ...
4
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3answers
663 views

EmDrive compared to flashlight in space

From my (basic) understanding the most impressive thing about the EmDrive is it violates Newton's third law. No propellant is needed, nothing is jettisoned away, yet it, allegedly, accelerates in a ...
4
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1answer
521 views

Books on rocket engine *dynamics*? [closed]

I'm a controls guy and I would like to "emulate" a given rocket engine's response behavior to different thrust signals inside a computer simulation. Thus I'm looking for a book that explains well the ...
4
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1answer
97 views

What is the limit on ISP for cooled physical nozzles — and how hard is it?

High performance chemical rockets, as well as hypothetical gas-core nuclear thermal rockets, can operate with chamber temperatures above the failure point of any available substance, because internal ...
4
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2answers
144 views

Using lasers to reach the Karman line

I've just seen this Anton Petrov video: New Type of Laser Levitation Could Help Us Explore the Mesosphere. It's about this new form of levitation that uses lasers to heat up the air underneath a craft,...
4
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1answer
85 views

XIPS purity requirements?

What purity of xenon is required for the xenon ion propulsion system? Does the purity impact the efficiency of the engine?
4
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1answer
609 views

Cost Estimation of Satellite propulsion systems

As part of my research project, i am evaluating various satellite propulsion systems. Are there any databases or forums where the ROM cost of a Satellite propulsion system is listed. A few new space ...
4
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0answers
111 views

Electromagnetic engines in heavy radiation regions

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 ...
4
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0answers
119 views

What does a high Hall Effect Parameter mean in MPD thrusters?

MagnetoPlasmaDynamic Thrusters are plasma thrusters in which the acceleration of the fluid (plasma) is carried in a electromagnetic way. The electric field and the lorentz force are the primary causes ...
4
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0answers
98 views

Electron buildup in Hall effect thrusters?

I was thinking about the Hall Effect Thrusters and how they are able to produce thrust. There's something that I don't understand: when the hollow cathodes emit electrons to neutralize the flow at the ...
3
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5answers
417 views

Could fuel be “hosed” (pumped) from the ground to a launcher?

Most fuel on board a launcher is used during the first couple of minutes. Most of the propellant is needed to carry other propellant. For example, Saturn V (kerosene) and Delta IV (hydrogen) use about ...