Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seeking propulsions 'Holy Grail'

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Scientists here are working on a project that has the potential to revolutionize space travel: a thermonuclear propulsion system. Researchers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Boeing are assembling in the Aerophysics Research Center at Redstone Arsenal a huge piece of machinery that in a past life tested nuclear weapons effects. "Charger-1 Pulsed Power Generator" will be one of the largest and most powerful pulse power systems in the academic world, according to university officials. Scientists consider nuclear fusion the "Holy Grail" of spacecraft propulsion. As envisioned, multiple launch vehicles would put the required components into orbit, where the spacecraft would be assembled and a pulsed fusion engine would launch the spacecraft from high Earth orbit. Nuclear fusion propulsion, an idea that's been around for a long time, would cut fuel needed to a few tons instead of thousands of tons. (Source: University of Alabama in Huntsville, 07/25/2012) Gulf Coast note: NASA and commercial companies test propulsion systems at Stennis Space Center, Miss., which works closely with Marshall Space Flight Center.