A British nuclear fusion company has joined forces with a leading American company to use AI to design a hyper-fast space rocket capable of reaching Saturn’s moons in just two years.
Oxfordshire based Pulsar Fusion have announced a partnership with Princeton Satellite Systems in a move which could drastically reduce the mission time to Saturn’s moon Titan.
The two leading British and American companies will use AI machine learning simulations to create a deep space rocket engine with a 500,000 mph potential – also making Mars reachable in just 30 days.
The move comes just days after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signed a UK / US defence sharing deal in Washington.
Announcing the partnership Pulsar Fusion’s founder and CEO Richard Dinan said: “This is a hugely significant step for Pulsar. By pooling our own research and resources with those of Princeton Satellite Systems, Pulsar has gained access to behavioural data from the world record holding fusion reactor (PRFC-2) coupled with recent advancements in machine learning, this will supercharge the development of our nuclear fusion rocket systems.
“Fusion Propulsion is free from many of the vast infrastructure requirements presented in the development of terrestrial fusion energy for power stations on Earth.
“Space is the ideal place to do fusion in terms of it being a vacuum and the extremely cold temperatures.
“Unlike a fusion power station, fusion propulsion doesn’t require a giant steam turbine and fuels can be sourced externally rather than needing to be created on site.
“Humanity has a huge need for faster propulsion in our growing space economy and fusion offers 1000 x the power of conventional ion thrusters currently used in orbit. In short, if humans can achieve fusion for energy, then fusion propulsion in Space is inevitable.
“Our view is that fusion propulsion will be demonstrated in space decades before we can harness fusion for energy on Earth. “
The collaboration will see the two companies using AI machine learning to study data from the World record holding PFRC-2 reactor, in order to better understand the behaviour of plasma under electromagnetic heating and confinement, when configured as an aneutronic propulsion system.
In an exciting World first, the two companies will use data from plasma shots conducted at the Reversed Configuration reactor, the PFRC-2, which was developed in partnership with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), and the most advanced machine learning technologies to analyse the behaviour of super-hot fusion plasma in a rocket engine configuration.
The research a transatlantic partnership that looks to uncover how a nuclear fusion Plasma will behave as it is exits a rocket engine emitting exhaust particles at hundreds of km per second.
Pulsar is developing simulations based on gas puffing data from the PFRC-2 to attempt to create predictive simulations of ion and electron behaviour in an FRC plasma.
Predictive simulations are needed for closed loop control systems, a key component of a future PFRC reactor. The PFRC-2 is located at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and supported in part by PSS.
Once developed the new technology could reduce the journey time to Mars to only 30 days and make Saturn’s moon Titan reachable within two years.
DFD transit times – 30 days to Mars
2 years to Saturn’s moon Titan
Pulsar Fusion Ltd (UK)
Founded in 2013 by Richard Dinan (CEO 2013- present) formally Applied Fusion Systems, In 2022, The company has controversially shunned fusion for energy, instead focusing on using the same technology for hyper fast space propulsion.
In 2022, Pulsar Fusion was awarded funds from the UK Space Agency to conduct research into nuclear electric propulsion. The UK company is based in Bletchley ‘Home of the Code Breakers’ which some will remember as the location where Alan Turing famously broke the Enigma code in WW2.
Princeton Satellite Systems (PSS)
PSS and the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) are collaborating on a new fusion technology. Direct Fusion Drive is a revolutionary direct-drive, fusion-powered rocket engine concept. Compact and clean-burning, each 1-10 MW Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) engine would produce both power and thrust with high specific power (low mass). Producing propulsion directly in the fusion engine is highly efficient, shortening trip times and increasing capability for a wide variety of space missions: robotic missions to the outer planets, human missions to the moon or Mars, missions to near interstellar space.
PSS have analyzed DFD for many missions and applications:
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)
PPPL is a leader in magnetic confinement experiments utilizing the tokamak approach. This work culminated in the world-record performance of the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR), which operated at PPPL from 1982 to 1997. Beginning in 1993, TFTR was the first in the world to use 50/50 mixtures of deuterium-tritium, yielding an unprecedented 10.7 million watts of fusion power.
PFRC-2 has been supported by the Department of Energy, and now DFD research is being supported by a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts grant and two NASA STTRs.