The speed of chemical engines and the gravitational slingshot are now limiting space travel and exploration. The Voyager 1 moves at a speed of just 35,000 miles per hour, which is incomparably slow for a trip into space.
Fortunately, the MASA Institute for Advanced Concepts is supporting two groundbreaking concepts that will enable a speed of one million kilometers per hour.
The NIAC is financing two concepts: the ion drive and antimatter propulsion. Classical ion drive engines can’t produce a lot of push, but there are now ways to make ion drive engines that can generate megawatts of thrust.
High-energy lasers are being used by NASA-NIAC to ignite 50000 lithium-ion thrusters. Within four months, these engines will be put to the test. Nasa is pumping 10 megawatts into the newly created ion drive with lasers.
The components for this new ion drive are being built at JPL. The US military is also working on high-energy lasers with a power output of hundreds of megawatts.
Another advancement is that these new technologies will enable the construction of “direct-drive” ion engines. This direct-drive idea has a testing voltage of up to 6000 volts, which will simplify engine building by removing several electronics and modules.
As a result, space flight has a promising future. NASA and JPL expect to be able to build a working engine capable of reaching speeds of 1 million miles per hour in space by 2050.