29

I'm afraid you are incorrect. An object on the equator of Earth has a velocity of ~460 m/s. A satellite in geosynchronous orbit has a velocity of ~3000 m/s. You may be confused by the fact that both objects complete an "orbit" in 24 hours. But consider the fact that the satellite travels a significantly greater distance in that time.


22

Does it have any additional thrusters? Not to thrust towards its targets. For that, it's 100% ion thruster propelled. It does also have a set of 12 MR-103G variable thrust (0.9 N maximum) RCS (Reaction Control System) hydrazine monopropellant thrusters that launched with only 46 kg of propellants (read: total thrust of its RCS doesn't provide the spacecraft ...


21

Original Answer Given Alcubierre's math, and White's calculations, it's a viable avenue of research to pursue. Whether or not it is practical as FTL, and given the expected maximum apparent speed of about 10 times the speed of light (White), and that the math says it should be able to be done, an attempt to implement a prototype series should be of immense ...


16

It's a violation of Newton's 3rd law of motion? This is a fairly complete answer to the question in the absence of any deeper argument by the proponents of the device, but I'll get to those in a minute. Firstly, it's important to recognize that our universe follows a set of predictable and consistent laws. This might have been controversial in the 1700s. One ...


16

The total antimatter in the van Allen belts is estimated to be 160 nanograms. Annihilating that with matter would produce a whopping 8 kW-hr of energy. A quarter of a gallon of gasoline has that much energy. The star ship would be better off getting a quick spurt from a gas station pump before heading out.


15

This is a repository community-wiki post with references to current work on Alcubierre drive at NASA (Harold White) and in other places. Harold White. Warp Field Mechanics 101 (2011). http://hdl.handle.net/2060/20110015936 Harold White. Warp Field Mechanics 102 Energy Optimization (2013). http://hdl.handle.net/2060/20130011213 (See also YouTube videos: http:...


15

Money. Most engine designs we're now using are an evolution of the space race era in one form or another, from the times when financing research in rocket engine / nozzle design wasn't such an issue. Linear spike fundamentally changes rocket design, for one engine support structure, and would as such require a revolution in engineering if someone expects it ...


15

The basic idea here is to turn to have the shield you have towards the Sun. That does actually work, because the radiation from the Sun is directed, with a few exceptions: First, inside a planetary magnetosphere, charged particles are bent, and form radiation belts, for example the Van Allen belts. There, shielding is a bit more difficult. Secondly, that is ...


14

The easiest way is just to think in terms of energy. Using numbers from wikipedia, the mass of a deuterium nucleus is 2.014 daltons, that of a tritium nucleus is 3.016, helium 4 is 4.0026 and a neutron is 1.0087 Thus the net energy production is about 0.019 or very roughly 1/250 of the mass of the products, and in the perfect engine you describe, all of ...


13

I can't give a precise answer to your primary question besides "Extremely unlikely", but here are some facts on cosmic rays that might help coming to a conclusive answer: Current models are able to describe the distribution of energies and ion masses rather well. What we do not know precisely is the source of this radiation. There are plenty possible ...


12

Dawn and Deep Space 1 both use the NSTAR ion engine - I got my stats from a mix of sources so there may be small differences between the engines used on the two spacecraft, but they seem to be pretty similar. Dawn has 3 redundant NSTAR thrusters (not intended to be used together); DS1 has 1. Thruster mass is 8.2kg, power processing unit and control unit ...


12

Aerospikes are notoriously difficult to cool efficiently. With a bell nozzle, you have a minor part of rapidly expanding(+cooling) exhaust touching the broad, actively cooled nozzle - that means little conductive heat transfer, lower temperature gradient, lots of area for coolant plumbing on the outside (or within) the bell, and outer area radiating a lot ...


10

If gravity was repulsive between the Earth and the asteroid, this could at least make sense in principle. In that case, getting close is like pushing on a spring, and with a carefully managed trajectory, you might be able to finish the trajectory on the surface, with zero gravity. But gravity isn't like a pushing spring, it's like a pulling spring. That ...


10

Baryonic matter by necessity occupies spacetime, but since the theoretical Alcubierre drive warps spacetime, there wouldn't actually be any travel through it and no additional interaction with baryonic matter would occur due to it. Miguel Alcubierre's proposal for warp drive does call for exotic matter to create a distortion in spacetime, when perceived as ...


10

Exploding thermonuclear bombs behind a big, thick plate, with the payload on giant shock absorbers behind that, referred to as Project Orion, is practical today, and has been for decades. There is no other practical way to generate net energy from fusion, and there won't be for decades.


10

Conceptually, staging is getting rid of hardware we no longer need. Keeping useless hardware attached to the rocket is expensive, since added mass reduces acceleration. Ideally, we would want to get rid of hardware as soon as it gets useless, instead of piling it up to a "batch", which is essentially what the question boils down to. Rockets are very simple*...


9

Edit: second attempt, my initial post was completely incorrect. My intuition tells me you'll run into a limit on the exhaust velocity with a system like this. My initial thought, "The exhaust speed of a rocket is limited by the speed of sound" is incorrect, so where could the limit be? So let's see where we end up if we use the highest pressure possible ...


9

We can compute the power required to maintain speed as: $$ P=\frac{C_D}2\rho A v^3 $$ Assuming the hypersonic drag coefficient is around $1$ and that the atmospheric density is $1\%$ of Earth's, we get: $$ \frac P A=\frac 1 2\times 0.01225~\text{kg}/\text{m}^3\times\left(5.0~\text{km}/\text{s}\right)^3 = 780~\text{MW}/\text{m}^2 $$ Even on Mars the ...


9

The specific entry of the table appears to be the HIPARC-R hydrogen arcjet thruster developed by Space Travel Institute of University of Stuttgart. The concept of Arcjets is to use the propellant as conductor between two electrodes, creating intense electric arc, and exciting the propellant into superheated plasma. This allows to infuse it with more energy ...


9

A photon drive (the flashlight example) doesn't use reaction mass, just the momentum of (massless) photons. So if it's supplied with power, e.g. from the sun, it can keep thrusting indefinitely. The most obvious example is a solar sail. However, photon drives have a thrust/power ratio of about 3.34 nN/W, which means that ~300 MW is required for 1 N of thrust....


9

It uses lots of ridiculously fine tubing - about 50km in a unit with walls thinner than a human hair. Each unit consists of about 20-30 modules, each consisting of thousands of closely arranged parallel tubes arranged in a single revolution spiral. Helium, chilled by the liquid hydrogen fuel (at below 20K) enters the spiral at the inside edge of the spiral ...


8

The Everyday Astronaut just released an hour long video investigating this question. Some of the main points are: Aerospikes are especially advantageous to single stage to orbit vehicles, and current space companies are not building those. There isn't really an advantage in SSTOs compared to multi stage rockets. The efficiency advantage of aerospikes isn'...


8

Exotic matter is an area that is worth looking at. The geometry of warp drive (or equivalently, Krasnikov tubes) is not really as interesting for FTL travel as people believe: Something that usually gets overlooked is the causality of the matter-geometry dependency. You need the matter to be deployed first on a space-like region between a home and a ...


7

While AlanSE did a fine job of addressing it I think I can do a better job of addressing where she's going wrong: Yes, I think an orbit as she is envisioning exists. The problem is that Earth has mass and will pull it out of solar orbit. It won't be in that nice orbit when it hits. The closest you could theoretically come to a soft landing would be to ...


7

There has been a lot of researching regarding Non-Chemical Rocket propulsion Systems. The most recent one being beamed thermal propulsion. It involves propelling a rocket by using microwaves from the ground. Here you can find more Systems which have been researched on. Some have already been used, such as the Air Launch, where rockets are launched from ...


7

How large would the sail need to be for a five day transfer? Too large. Solar sails are typically not very useful to increase your semimajor axis when orbiting a body other than the Sun (eg Earth). This is because when you're travelling away from the sun, the solar pressure will accelerate you, and when you're travelling towards the sun, it will slow you ...


7

You'll lose more energy hauling that hose up than you could possibly save by pumping fuel in. A hose full of fuel is going to be heavy, not to mention you'll have quite a time keeping it out of the rocket exhaust.


7

There exist one way for this to work As pointed out by others before, a hose is heavy to carry along. However, if the propellant station had the same altitude and velocity as the rocket, it may be pretty simple engineering. And the obvious way of propelling the tank is by the means of a rocket engine. This is known as "propellant cross feed" or "asparagus ...


7

NASA's already testing the EmDrive, at the NASA/JSC Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory. To have no doubt that the device works, we'd need to see the test results replicated consistently by multiple laboratories. As of early 2016, 3 laboratories have done tests with inconsistent results (different levels of thrust/input power). It'd also be nice to ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible