The Feasibility of Linear Motors and High-Energy Thrusters for Massive Aerospace Vehicles

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M.A. Stull (2007), JBIS, 60, 449-459

Refcode: 2007.60.449
Keywords: Linear motors, laser accelerators, aerospace vehicles, propulsion, interplanetary travel, nuclear powered spacecraft

A combination of two propulsion technologies, superconducting linear motors using ambient magnetic fields and high- energy particle beam thrusters, may make it possible to develop massive aerospace vehicles the size of aircraft carriers. If certain critical thresholds can be attained, linear motors can enable massive vehicles to fly within the atmosphere and can propel them to orbit. Thrusters can do neither, because power requirements are prohibitive. However, unless superconductors having extremely high critical current densities can be developed, the interplanetary magnetic field is too weak for linear motors to provide sufficient acceleration to reach even nearby planets. On the other hand, high-energy thrusters can provide adequate acceleration using a minimal amount of reaction mass, at achievable levels of power generation. If the requirements for linear motor propulsion can be met, combining the two modes of propulsion could enable huge nuclear powered spacecraft to reach at least the inner planets of the solar system, the asteroid belt, and possibly Jupiter, in reasonably short times under continuous acceleration, opening them to exploration, resource development and colonization.

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