BLETCHLEY, England - Pulsar Fusion in Bletchley, England, has started construction of what company officials say is the largest practical nuclear fusion rocket engine ever built. The 8-meter fusion chamber is being assembled in Bletchley and when fired in 2027 will temporarily become the hottest place in the solar system creating exhaust speeds of over 500,000 MPH.
Researchers at Pulsar Fusion hope to reach several hundred million degrees when the final plasma shot is fired in the chamber, creating temperatures hotter than the Sun.
"The difficulty is learning how to hold and confine the super-hot plasma within an electromagnetic field," said Dr James Lambert, CFO of Pulsar. "The plasma behaves like a weather system in terms of being incredibly hard to predict using conventional techniques."
Scientists have not been able to control the turbulent plasma as it is heated to hundreds of millions of degrees and the reaction simply stops. This unpredictability is attributed to the science magneto-hydro dynamics (MHD) and Gyrokinetics, the state of the plasma is changing all the time. Scientists can get to fusion temperatures, as recently demonstrated at California's Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, and this will be achieved again more often going forward, but small improvements can dramatically improve the results in our favor”
Very recent advances in machine learning techniques may have changed the playing field in favor of scientists. Pulsar Fusions has teamed up with New Jersey-based Princeton Satellite Systems to take the data from the world record holding PFRC-2 reactor, feed it into supercomputer simulations to better predict how super-hot plasma behaves under electromagnetic confinement and thus, guide and improve the design of the rocket engine prototype.
If the Pulsar rocket test can achieve fusion temperatures at its demonstration to aerospace partners in 2027, then the technology has the potential to halve mission times to Mars, reduce flight time to Saturn from 8 years to 2 and ultimately empower humanity to leave our solar system.