Crowdfunding on RocketHub, the University of Alabama in Huntsville hopes to develop the technology which will allow astronauts the ability to make round trip excursions to Mars in less than 6 months. Manned voyages to Jupiter and beyond could also be accomplished within a year. In addition to this, a fusion spacecraft could be single-stage and reusable, which would enable manned interplanetary missions to become routine.
The rewards based crowdfunding campaign is targeting a raise of $500,000 to fund “pulsed fusion propulsion research” with the “Charger-1 device”. The operating costs of running these “lithium deuteride” experiments is expected to cost about $5,000 to $10,000per week. The organizers plan to do experiments geared towards understanding the optimization and scaling with lithium deuteride targets. This will help guide the design of similar targets for more powerful z-pinch machines.
As described on their crowdfunding campaign, the Charger-1 is a ~500 kJ pulsed power facility capable of 2 MA discharges at 3 TW of instantaneous power. For comparison, the electrical power in the entire global grid is 15 TW. The Charger-1 will be used to research pertinent technologies for pulsed z-pinch fusion propulsion. In z-pinch fusion, a current discharge is used to ionize a fuel pellet, and the resulting plasma is compressed by the Lorentz force until a fusion reaction occurs. A magnetic nozzle is then used to transfer momentum from the expanding fusion plasma to the spacecraft for propulsive impulse. As the fusion plasma expands, the magnetic field that makes up the nozzle is compressed until the magnetic pressure is equivalent to the dynamic pressure of the plasma. The plasma is then ejected from the nozzle as the magnetic field rebounds to its initial position.
Lithium deuteride is in great abundance and relatively inexpensive compared to other approaches.
The crowdfunding campaign organizers have noted that the Charger-1 is still in the process of being assembled and furbished, and much remains to be done before fusion research can begin.
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