Open Questions: Spacecraft and Space Propulsion
SpaceRef: Future Technology
- External links to pages dealing with various propulsion
technologies (and other space exploration technology).
Sites with general resources
NASA Space Science: Project Prometheus
- Information on a planned project to develop space propulsion
systems using ion engines and fission or radioisotope
NASA Human Spaceflight: Propulsion
- Overview of propulsion technologies. More detail may be found at
Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory.
Institute for Space and Nuclear Power Studies
- Research and development in the School of Engineering at the
University of New Mexico. Site describes research projects and
provides related resources.
Cosmos 1: The First Solar Sail Spacecraft
- Describes a project of
The Planetary Society
that will test the idea of solar sails
in space for the first sime
Cosmos 1 Official Mission Tracking Site
- News and general information related to the privately-funded
Cosmos 1 project.
- Experimental mission of the
Agency, whose "primary objective is to flight test Solar Electric
Primary Propulsion." The site includes articles on
SMART-1 Propulsion and several more on
Electric Spacecraft Propulsion in general.
Ion drive versus chemical rocket comparison.
Another general page on SMART-1:
Electric Propulsion Laboratory (EPL)
- Research facility of the
European Space Agency that
focuses on space propulsion technology, especially low/medium
power electric propulsion.
- "A broad collaborative team of scientific and engineering
researchers and technologists at NASA field centers, university
laboratories, and other government and commercial facilities."
Purpose is "to significantly reduce the time and cost required
for spacecraft to reach their destinations."
NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Project
- BPP was a NASA-sponsored project from 1996 to 2002 that
investigated the possibilities of exotic propulsion technologies
which required no propellant mass and could achieve maximum
Warp Drive, When?
- An assessment by
Marc Millis "of the prospects for achieving the propulsion
breakthroughs that would enable such far-future visions of
interstellar travel." The "web site focuses on the propulsion
related issues, explaining the challenges of interstellar travel,
existing propulsion ideas, and the possibilities emerging from
scientific literature that may one day provide the desired
Surveys, overviews, tutorials
- Article from
Setting Sail in the Sun
- September 2010 article in
"Propelled by sunlight pressure, large lightweight sails made
of ultrathin aluminum-coated plastic could one day take probes
to the edge of our solar system and other stars."
Eight high-tech ways to propel a spaceship
- It's more like pulp science fiction in some ways, but this
article from Cosmos
provides a handy checklist of possible future forms of spacecraft
NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT)
- Information on NASA's next generation (post-2007) ion propulsion
- Information on the ion propulsion engine used in the
Could NASA Get To Pluto Faster? Space Expert Says Yes - By
- Interview with space propulsion expert Paul A. Czysz about
possible nuclear power propulsion systems.
Ion engine could one day power 39-day trips to Mars
- July 2009 New Scientist article about ion propulsion.
"Researchers are testing a powerful new rocket engine propelled
by charged particles instead of chemical fuel - one day it
could shorten Mars trips from six months to one."
Interstellar Spaceflight: Is It Possible?
- December 2005 article from
Physorg.com. Discusses light sail, nuclear fusion, Bussard
ramjet, and antimatter propulsion systems.
Frequently Asked Questions about Ion Propulsion
- Information provided by NASA, in relation to the
Deep Space 1 mission (which uses ion propulsion).
Solar Electric (Ion) Propulsion
- Information on the ion propulsion engine used in the
Deep Space 1 mission.
Dual Stage Four Grid Thruster Development
- News and information about an ion propulsion system.
Magnetized Beamed Plasma Propulsion (MagBeam)
- Magbeam propulsion is "a system where large power units are
placed permanently in orbit around critical regions of a planet.
With a beamed plasma system, spacecraft can be pushed or pulled
to perform orbital transfers around the planet or accelerated to
other planets at essentially no cost."
Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion (M2P2)
- "Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion (M2P2) is an advanced
plasma propulsion system that will enable spacecraft to attain
unprecedented speeds, with minimal energy and mass requirements.
It will create a large scale magnetic bubble around the spacecraft
to ride the solar winds, and accelerate the spacecraft to
- Transcript of August 2004 Australian TV program about
a new type of ion/plasma propulsion system.
Setting sail for the stars
- May 12, 2000 BBC news story about space sail technology.
- The Efficient Future of Deep-Space Travel--Electric Rockets
Edgar U. Choueiri
Scientific American, February 2009
- Efficient electric plasma engines are propelling the
next generation of space probes to the outer solar system.
- Zip Drive
Wired, January 2001, pp. 96-108
- 2018 may be the most reasonable target date for a manned mission
to Mars. Various propulsion technologies are being developed as
alternatives. Plasma devices such as Vasimr are one candidate, but
there are others, including conventional chemical rockets, Hall
effect thrusters, and field emission electric propulsion.
- The VASIMR Rocket
Franklin R. Chang Diaz
Scientific American, November 2000, pp. 90-97
- VASIMR is an acronym for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma
Rocket. This type of propulsion system attempts to combine the
advantages of powerful, fuel-guzzling rockets witm more efficient
but significantly weaker technologies.
Science News, August 21, 1999
- Explanation of solar sails for spacecraft propulsion.
- 21st-Century Spacecraft
Freeman J. Dyson
Scientific American, September 1995, pp. 114-116A
- There are at least five promising space propulsion systems:
nuclear-electric propulsion, solar-electric propulsion, laser
propulsion, solar sails, and electromagnetic ram accelerators.
The author believes solar-electric propulsion has the edge.
Copyright © 2002 by Charles Daney, All Rights Reserved