Charger 1 provides new technology that could get us to Mars in 6 weeks
March 4, 2013
Filed under News
Governor Robert Bentley was among other politicians and officials on Friday who gathered on Redstone Arsenal to unveil the Charger 1 and present UAHuntsville with a $300,000 innovation grant.
The grant was one of 15 awarded to schools that are furthering research, innovation and job creation in the state of Alabama. The grant will be used for more research in fusion pulse propulsion technology and to advance work on the massive Charger 1 project, unveiled Friday. The grants were awarded based on the potential of the projects to see future commercialization, further research and creation of jobs.
“The Alabama Innovation Fund supports high-tech research and innovative ideas that will lead to more jobs in our communities,” Gov. Bentley said. “By investing in innovation and research, we are investing in opportunities that will benefit people for years to come. UAH is a leader in research and innovation, and I am proud to support this project because of the benefit it will have on the surrounding community.”
The “Charger 1 Pulse Power Generator” is a machine developed by a group of students and scientists from the UAH Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The device will be a key element in furthering fusion technology that will be able to drive spacecraft into space from low-Earth orbit. The technology could eventually be used to get a spacecraft to Mars in six weeks as opposed to the six months it would currently take.
“Right now humans are stuck in low Earth orbit, but we want to explore the solar system. We’re trying to come up with a system that will demonstrate ‘break even’ for fusion pulse propulsion,” Jason Cassibry, a faculty member in UAH’s mechanical and aerospace engineering program said.
As it stands, rocket propulsion relies on massive amounts of fuel to provide the energy needed to propel spacecraft. Fusion pulse propulsion would reduce the amount of necessary fuel to several tons as opposed to thousands of tons. This is monumental because it would reduce the time needed to get into deep space, and thus reduce health risks to travelers from things like bone density loss.
UAH graduate student, Ross Cortez likened the fusion reaction to sticking lightning in a can and figuring out how to keep the lightning from destroying the can. The biggest obstacle they are currently facing is getting the technology to “break even.” Currently the device takes in more energy to initiate the reaction than it is able to put out.
“Charger 1 won’t come close to break even, but will give us ability to conduct experiments that optimize fusion energy output,” said Cassibry. “Our ultimate goal is to build a break even fusion system that will propel humans throughout the solar system.”