To Mars in 30 Days: Pulsar Fusion Science Fiction or Reality?
The British company Pulsar Fusion is preparing a revolution in space.
British company Pulsar Fusion has started construction of what it says is the world’s largest practical fusion rocket engine and plans to launch it in 2027.
Founded in 2011 and based in Bletchley, Oxfordshire, Pulsar Fusion claims its nuclear fusion rocket is capable of reaching speeds of up to 805,000 km/h and reaching Mars in 30 days.
The company’s engineers are assembling an 8-meter fusion chamber capable of containing plasma heated to several hundred million degrees Celsius when it launches in 2027 – temperatures warmer than the Sun.
Pulsar Fusion operations director Dr. James Lambert said: “The challenge is how to contain and confine the super-hot plasma in the electromagnetic field.
The plasma behaves like a weather system in the sense that it cannot be predicted using conventional methods. Scientists could not control the turbulent plasma when it heated up to hundreds of millions of degrees, and the reaction simply stopped.
Specialists are already able to reach the temperature required for fusion, as was recently demonstrated at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in 2022. In the future, such successes will become more frequent, and even small improvements can significantly increase the effectiveness of the results obtained.
Energy from the process of nuclear fusion, rather than the splitting of atoms (nuclear fission), has been considered the holy grail by engineers for decades for energy production because its by-products are not as dangerous. However, despite significant investment and some breakthroughs, a self-sustaining, enclosed fusion reaction has proven elusive, and most experts agree that a nuclear fusion power plant is still in the distant future.
Pulsar believes that the latest advances in machine learning techniques will enable faster advances in understanding the behavior of superhot plasma and the development of its Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) rocket.
The company is partnering with Princeton Satellite Systems to use data from the record-breaking PFRC-2 (Princeton field-reversed configuration) reactor to create computer models that predict how superhot plasma behaves under electromagnetic confinement. These models will be used to build and improve the rocket engine prototype.
Pulsar CEO Richard Dinan said: “Our state-of-the-art satellite thrusters, which we manufacture today at Pulsar, are capable of up to 25 miles per second in exhaust velocity. We hope to achieve more than 10 times faster speeds with nuclear fusion.
If the test of the Pulsar rocket in 2027 shows the possibility of reaching fusion temperatures, then this could be a watershed moment in the aerospace industry. Such technology has the potential to cut the flight time to Mars by half, reduce the flight time to Saturn from eight years to two, and ultimately provide humanity with the opportunity to go beyond our solar system.
We intend to keep our existing partners informed at every stage of the project. Starting with the first launches in 2025, we will be able to understand if we are on the right track.
After that, Pulsar plans to conduct an orbital test launch. There is confidence among the AI and nuclear fusion community that AI can help us develop engines capable of interstellar space travel.”