Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Plasma Propulsion

It turns out that the plasma cannon we were envisioning at our last meeting is pretty similar to a VASIMIR engine - notice the use of radio waves (similar to microwaves) to excite the plasma:

General definition of plasma propulsion engine:

Also, here are is an excellent paper on plasma propulsion - it has some other interesting ideas like using the magnetosphere for propulsion, and creating a mini-magnetosphere on spacecraft to protect from radiatio/cosmic rays, etc:

And then there's this recent story that's been going around, which Travis pointed out:

Also, here is an interesting site about using LTA (Lighter Than Air) technology to get to orbit, using a three step approach - A robust V-shaped wing craft to get to a floating station at 140k ft, where a lighter and more delicate (and streamlined) V-shaped wing craft with ion engines to slowly get to orbit in 5 days. It's a little hard to glean too much from their website, I had to buy their book "Floating to Orbit" to figure out what they were really up to:

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