The Princeton Field Reversed Configuration device, the PFRC-2, at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey. Fusion-powered spacecraft may not be just a sci-fi dream for much longer. The Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) engine could take flight for the first time in 2028 or so, if all goes according to plan, the concept’s developers said. That would be big news for space fans; the minivan-size DFD could get a 22,000-lb. (10,000 kilograms) robotic spacecraft to Saturn in just two years, or all the way out to Pluto within five years of launch, project team members said. (For perspective: NASA’s Cassini mission made it to Saturn in 6.75 years, and it took the agency’s New Horizons probe 9.5 years to get to Pluto.) Related: Superfast Spacecraft Propulsion Concepts (Images) And the engine doubles as a potent power source, meaning the technology could have a broad range of off-Earth applications. For example, the DFD could help power NASA’s planned moon-orbiting space station, known as the Gateway, as well as bases on the moon and Mars, project team member Stephanie Thomas, vice president of Princeton Satellite Systems in Plainsboro, New Jersey, said late last month during a presentation with NASA’s Future In-Space Operations working group. The DFD is… Read full this story
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