The missile technology of the future will be able to deliver humans to Mars

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2018-05-08 12:00:13

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The missile technology of the future will be able to deliver humans to Mars

February 6, SpaceX made history by launching a Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Today it is the largest and most powerful rocket in the world. Elon Musk, the world-famous CEO of a space company, plans to build a rocket that's in the end . Possible. Falcon Heavy — 70-foot marvel of engineering is able to transport cargo up to 64 tonnes into low earth orbit. Only the legendary "Saturn 5" rocket that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon in the 60's and 70's were bigger and thicker. But those days are long gone. However, both missiles rely on liquid fuels.

A Trip to Mars at one end using conventional chemical rockets can take up to nine months. The human crew will have to spend a long time exposed to radiation and other hazards. This is one of the reasons why NASA and other space agencies as well as universities and private industry are trying to develop various other types of missile technology.

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Thrust plasma engine

A Leading alternative for a trip to Mars is considered electric traction. In 2015, NASA noted three startup for the development of systems of solar electric power (SEP), each of which received a three-year grant in the framework of the Agency's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships.

NextSTEP is just one cog in a very long term of NASA's development of space station near the moon, which will serve as a transit point for travel to the Red planet. Now it is almost science fiction in the best tradition of Arthur C. Clarke, but system SEP already quite real, though not so large.

Three companies that received contracts — Ad Astra Rocket Company, Aerojet Rocketdyne and MSNW is developing a different ion or plasma engines.

Instead of blowing gases during the combustion process, which produces a thrust of chemical rockets, ion thrusters apply force to move the object by ionization of an inert gas, such as xenon or hydrogen, and electric charge. He knocks electrons from the atoms, creating positively charged ions. The result is a gas consisting of positive ions and negative electrons — in other words, plasma. Electric and magnetic fields further help to guide the plasma in the right direction to provide the thrust.

Plasma is a separate fourth state of matter, alongside solid, liquid and gaseous. The most striking example of plasma is the center of our Solar system, the sun. However, in nature, and on Earth, plasma is quite common: it's the bolt, and the well-known "plasma" TVs.

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Physics ions

Ion engines also have long been used on satellites and even in deep space. In 2015, for example, ion engines brought the NASA Dawn to orbit the dwarf planet Ceres located in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Ion engines there is one drawback, which is not rocket Falcon Heavy: they are unable to instantly accelerate to leave the gravity of Earth. But they are much more efficient in the vacuum of space. Spacecraft with ion engines can reach speeds constantly, and thus can achieve overclocking, not available to traditional chemical engines. For example, the space Shuttle could reach speeds of 30 000 km/h And the spacecraft is driven by the force of ions, theoretically, can cut through space at speeds in excess of 340 000 km/h.

Former astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz, who directs Ad Astra, said that theoretically I could shoot the device to Mars so that it will arrive on the planet in 40 days. The idea of the VASIMR rocket, developed by Ad Astra, came to him in 1980.

Not long ago, the company has demonstrated that the VASIMR engine can produce 100 kilowatt of power for 100 continuous hours. The next step will be the engine for the production of a plasma ball, hot as the sun, and keeping it for 100 hours straight. Aerojet Rocketdyne also reported about readiness for the next stage of the 100-hour test, the engine Hall, the other engine type on the basis of the plasma. Best on a modern ion engine is 5 kW.

Meanwhile MSNW explores various prototypes of thermonuclear missiles that can throw the plasma produced by the synthesis of a mixture of isotopes of hydrogen and helium and heat over low-frequency radio waves. This process converts part of the mass of atoms into energy. A lot of energy.

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Out of thin air

Not to be outdone, the European space Agency is developing its ion engine, which can literally eat the air. Air powerplant sucks molecule on the verge of the planet's atmosphere, largely eliminating the need to transport fuel gas, such as xenon.

Although this technology may not be useful to spacecraft in long-distance trains, it is powered satellites in low earth orbit or even on other planets like Mars, where you can suck in gases and turn them into fuel.

The Installation has been tested in a vacuum chamber in Italy, where the simulated environment at an altitude of over 500 kilometres.

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Contrary to the laws of nature

Electric power unit, which takes air and turns it into fuel may seem superfluous the face of another space engine, which is still theoretical: electromagnetic propulsion system that does not use any fuel at all. This is the EmDrive engine, proposed by scientists of NASA. It creates cravings in the process of Bouncing microwaves in a closed chamber. In theory this engine will be able to deliver a rocket to Mars in two months. If not for the unfortunate fact that it violates the laws of nature. In particular, the EmDrive violates the third law of classical mechanics of Isaac Newton, which States that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The Question is whether EmDrive become a ticket to Mars, still have not found a clear answer.

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is Not of this world

Another unusual idea, applicable for space engines, came from a Colorado startup Escape Dynamics. It is suggested to use the technology of microwave thrust.

The project is based on the external influence on the electromagnetic motor of the spacecraft in the form of microwaves. The microwave beam will contribute to the heating of the onboard hydrogen fuel, which then will be emitted and to produce thrust. An early prototype was very promising, but the company was forced to stop the test in 2015, when not raised enough funds to continue development.

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Rockets — it's not that

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic moon landing, when one man made a giant leap for mankind. To take the next step in the solar system will require a huge technological leap in rocket science. Today it may seem incredible that a man will go to Mars, but it is, without doubt, come to pass.

As he wrote Arthur C. Clarke, "the only way to know the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible."

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