The main stable of Sci-Fi space travel seems to remain a mystery

The main stable of Sci Fi space travel seems to remain

In Poul Anderson novel 1970 Number Zero, a star-studded crew trying to travel to the Beta Virginis star in hopes of settling a new planet. "Bussard ramjet" is a method of moving the ship, a real (albeit hypothetical) mode of travel proposed by physicist Robert W. Bussard just ten years earlier. Now, physicists have revisited this unusual device for interstellar travel in a new paper published in the journal Acta Astronautica, and unfortunately, they found the ramjet wanted . It is possible from a real physics perspective, but the engineering challenges associated with them are currently unattainable, the authors concluded.

A ramjet is basically a jet engine that "breathes" air. The best analog for the basic equipment is that it takes advantage of the forward movement of the engine to compress incoming air without the need for compressors, making ramjet engines lighter and simpler than the turbojet contemporaries. A French engineer by the name of Rene Lorin was patented in 1913 for his idea of ​​a ramjet (aka, a flying stove pipe), although he did not build a feasible prototype. Two years later, Albert Fonó proposed a ramjet propulsion unit to increase the range of projectiles fired at gunpoint, and finally obtained a German patent in 1932.

A basic ramjet has three parts: an air intake, a combustor, and a nozzle. Hot solution from burning fuel flows through the nose. The firing pressure must be greater than the pressure at the exit of the nozzle to maintain a steady flow, which a ramjet engine achieves by "ramming" outside air into the combustion at forward speed regardless of the vehicle is driven by the engine. There is no need to carry oxygen on board. The disadvantage is that ramjets can only make thrushes if the vehicle is already moving, so they have to go with the help of using rockets. Rammets are therefore more useful as a means of acceleration, such as for ramjet - powered missiles or for widening the range of ammunition.

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Robert Bussard believed that the concept could change as a means of interstellar motion. The basic concept outlined in his 1960 paper was the construction of interstellar protons (ionized hydrogen) using large magnetic fields as a "ram scoop". The protons would be compressed to produce thermonuclear fusion, and magnetic fields would then transfer that energy to a rocket launcher to produce a thrush. The faster the vessel travels, the higher the proton flow, the larger the thrush.

But then scientists discovered that there was a much lower density of hydrogen in the space regions outside our solar system. That is why, in a 1969 paper, John F. Fishback suggested the range of a potential action magnetic scoop, taking into account factors such as radiation loss and thermal circulation of interstellar gas.

In particular, Fishback described the cutting speed. "The faster the vessel, the higher the magnetic field lines that focus them into the fusion reactor," explained the authors of this latest paper. "Stronger ranges[s] causing higher mechanical stress. "Fishback concluded that an interstellar ramjet could only accelerate steadily up to a certain threshold speed, at which point it had to thrive back, in case it did not reach the breaking point magnetic source.

Fishback is a solution that has been explored in this latest paper. "It's worth exploring the idea," said co - author Peter Schattschneider, author of science fiction and physics at Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna). "In an interstellar space there is a very weakened gas, mainly hydrogen - about one atom per cubic centimeter. If you were to collect the hydrogen in front of the spacecraft, as in a funnel with the help of large magnetic fields, you could use a magnetic field to run a fusion reactor and accelerate the spacecraft. "

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