Novel propulsion ideas for moving around space seem like they’re a dime a dozen recently. Besides the typical argument between solar sails and chemical propulsion lies a potential third way — a nuclear rocket engine. While we’ve discussed them here at Universe Today before, NASA’s Institute of Advanced Concepts has provided a grant to a company called Positron Dynamics for the development of a novel type of nuclear fission fragment rocket engine (FFRE). It could strike a balance between the horsepower of chemical engines and the longevity of solar sails.
What Is a Fission Fragment Rocket Engine?
FFREs are not a new concept in themselves, but many have massive technical hurdles to overcome before they can be considered useful. Their advantages, such as high specific impulse and extremely high power density, are offset by their disadvantages, such as requiring a complicated form of plasma levitation.
Positron Dynamics hopes to tip