Beamed Energy Driven MHD Chemical Rocket Motor for Advanced Space Propulsion
Use of an orbiting power station to beam microwave energy to spacecraft to assist propulsion is under study by NASA. One idea is that this station could beam intense power to a Mars vehicle in LEO to rapidly accelerate it for boost to planetary trajectory. The vehicle would not be burdened with fuel load enabling higher acceleration and terminal velocity thus reducing mission times.This SBIR explores use of an MHD Chemical Rocket Motor (MCRM) for the interplanetary vehicle. The rocket motor fires and its products stream passes through an MHD accelerator prior to nozzle exhausting. The stream is seeded with alkali metal to produce a plasma. The MHD accelerator electrical drives/augments the rocket stream through action of Lorentz forces with the input electric power being supplied by beamed energy (microwaves, laser) through rectennas. The MCRM can dramatically enhance Isp ( 2,000 to 3,000 sec range achievable in a small accelerator). These Isp levels can yield ?g? level accelerations making the orbit-boost-to-escape mission plausible.Phase I feasibility study will be concluded to qualify the MCRM for this mission. Design trade-offs will be accomplished to optimize its configuration. Phase I will outline an experimental program for MCRM development in Phase II.
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