Antimatter Space Propulsion Possible within a Decade

2016-03-15

Antimatter Space Propulsion Possible within a Decade
Dreams of antimatter space propulsion are closer to reality than most rocket scientists could ever imagine, says former Fermilab physicist Gerald Jackson. In fact, if money were no object, he says an antimatter-driven spacecraft prototype could be tested within a decade. To that end, next month, Jackson and his Chicago-based Hbar Technologies firm are launching a $200,000 Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the next phase of its antimatter propulsion research.

With propulsion velocities of some 40% of the speed of light, such technology could eventually cut travel times to the nearby Alpha Centauri star system to less than a decade. And more immediately, it would allow NASA to send a New Horizons-type probe to our outer solar system in a year or less.

If you send a probe into interstellar space, you don’t want the propulsion system to weigh a million times more than the payload itself, Jackson, President of Hbar Technologies, told me.

“So, my Hbar partner, physicist Steven Howe, and I came up with a very light propulsion system whose mass was comparative to the payload — an antimatter sail,” said Jackson. Funding dried up, so next month were going to try and restart this work.

In a paper presented at the 2003 Particle Accelerator Conference in Portland, Or., Jackson and Howe used NASA funding to outline a plan for a small antimatter interstellar probe that would only need 17 grams of antihydrogen to travel to Alpha Centauri. With velocities touching a tenth of lightspeed, they estimate the probe would speed across four light years in only 40 years.
One main challenge for such rockets would be simply finding a sufficient supply of antimatter fuel. In nature, the center of our own Milky Way galaxy is aglow in the x-ray emission of antimatter annihilation, which is almost certainly associated with a jet of streaming high-energy particles emanating from our galaxys central supermassive black hole. On Earth, by contrast, most antimatter has to be generated in particle physics accelerators at laboratories like Fermilab or CERN.

But all total, the now defunct Tevatron accelerator at Fermilab made much less than one gram of antimatter; most of which was held in storage rings for a day or so at most.

Antimatter is just like normal matter, but all the particles have the opposite charge, James Annis, a physicist at Fermilabs Center for Particle Astrophysics, told me. That means an antimatter electron has the opposite electric charge of a normal matter electron and also the ability to annihilate if it ‘finds its own partner particle.

Even so, Annis says normally the idea for anti-matter propulsion has been to take as much of that energy as possible and use it to heat hydrogen to high temperatures which is then blown out the back of a rocket.

The problem with working with antimatter is that one has to keep it from touching matter, which is surprisingly hard to do, said Annis. In Star Trek, they have solved the containment [problem] somehow and are able to store lots of antimatter.

However, Jackson and Howe think that, on paper at least, they have solved the containment issue and hope to use crowdfunding to hone their earlier antimatter designs for a robotic interstellar probe.

Crowdfunding may be a good way to show interest in the project when it comes time to find bigger investors or governmental support, said Jackson. We will then need funding on the order of $100 million to actually build small prototype propulsion and power systems.

We use the antiproton as a spark plug to induce fission, explains Jackson. And from this fission, he says, emerges what nuclear physicists term lighter fission daughter byproducts.

Each such antimatter annihilation releases two billion electron volts (2 GeV) of energy. Thus, an antimatter rocket, which would only be launched outside of Earths atmosphere, could provide a lot more thrust than a chemical or even nuclear rocket and use tens of thousands of times less fuel , says Jackson.

As envisioned in Jackson and Howes original design, a small antimatter robotic probe would consist of four basic components: a depleted uranium-coated carbon sail; a solid antihydrogen storage unit; an antiproton-driven electrical power supply, and a small payload instrument package at the back of the spacecraft.

Upon being struck by antihydrogen protons, a portion of the depleted uranium situated on coated foil inside the spacecraft is caused to fission. This creates two fission daughter byproducts which typically are emitted back-to-back with equal momentum. While the two daughters may not be exactly alike atomically, in order to adhere to known laws of physics, their momentum inherently must be equal, says Jackson. One fission daughter heads into the direction of the spacecrafts uranium-coated carbon sail and is decelerated and absorbed; imparting its momentum into the sail. The other escapes into space in the form of conventional propellant exhaust. Its the opposing forces of their powerful kinetic energies that enable the spacecraft to reach such high speeds.

Jackson would like to take a portion of the initial $200,000 he and Stowe are seeking to build a device to measure such thrust.

The biggest tech challenge says Jackson is the getting money to produce enough antiprotons to do the actual tests. Such antiprotons are usually generated in particle accelerators by aiming fast moving hydrogen atoms into a nickel target.

For every 100 protons that hit the target, there can be yields of up to one anti-proton, said Jackson.

When could an antimatter propulsion prototype be tested in space?

If the money were there, we could do it in ten years, says Jackson, noting that it would take a $100 million to design an Earth-based technology test. But youre talking billions to send spacecraft out to real destinations, said Jackson.

But he says if the will is there, spacecraft capable of cruising along at 40% of lightspeed should be achievable within the next two to three decades.




Development of the world market of UAV during COVID-19 pandemic

2021-05-05
Development of the world market of UAV during COVID-19 pandemic

The drone market has grown steadily and continuously over the past several years. The technology is here to stay and is becoming more prevalent across numerous industries. But 2020 was a unique year due to Covid-19. Overall, respondents even felt that the changes in business models triggered by the lockdowns would actually have a positive impact on the drone industry in the long run.

Russia is withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty.

2021-01-18
Russia is withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the country is beginning the procedure for withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies.

Exclusive video of application of the ZALA Lancet UAV at the training ground.

2020-12-26
Exclusive video of application of the ZALA Lancet UAV at the training ground.
ZALA Lancet is the first Russian-made unmanned airstrike system.

Drone application in the oil and gas sector

2020-12-23
Drone application in the oil and gas sector

Russia ranks 3rd in the World in the list of countries for oil production. The length of main pipelines in Russia is more than 250 000 km. Many pipelines often run in hard-to-reach areas of our country, which makes it difficult to monitor the condition of pipelines and increases the risk of illegal activities and violations. It is in such cases drones become an integral part of the oil and gas industry.

Results оf The International Helicopter Industry Exhibition HeliRussia 2020

2020-09-24
Results оf The International Helicopter Industry Exhibition HeliRussia 2020
HeliRussia is the only exhibition in Russia where world achievements of the entire range of products and services of the helicopter industry are presented. In 2020, the exhibition was held from September 15 to 17 at the Crocus Expo exhibition center, Moscow.

American retailer Walmart has launched the delivery of food and necessities using Flytrex drones.

2020-09-14
American retailer Walmart has launched the delivery of food and necessities using Flytrex drones.
On September 9, American retailer Walmart performed a pilot launch of food delivery using unmanned aircraft in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

SenseFly drones help monitor Lake Winnipeg ice hazards in Switzerland.

2020-09-12
SenseFly drones help monitor Lake Winnipeg ice hazards in Switzerland.

The project, which is part of the Canadian Space Agency's Earth observation applications development program (EODAP), was aimed at identifying and monitoring lake ice levels, as well as detecting cracks and pressure ridges to raise awareness among local communities and first responders about the risks of moving lake ice.

Development of unmanned aircraft on Military-Technical Forum "ARMY-2020"

2020-09-03
Development of unmanned aircraft on Military-Technical Forum "ARMY-2020"
On August 29, Military-Technical Forum "Army-2020" ended, although only a few months ago this event was under the big question due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the Forum was held and the results were impressive. Mostly participants and visitors of the forum were impressed by the display of domestic unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Pros and Cons of Drone Delivery

2020-04-30
The Pros and Cons of Drone Delivery
The idea of commercial delivery drones is more relevant now than ever as social distancing guidelines have made contactless delivery an essential part of company operations. ‘

The first drone delivery was a tasty one: Dominos delivered two pizzas to a residence in New Zealand in 2016. Since then, companies have been racing towards liftoff.



Medical Drone Delivery Success in Ireland

2020-04-06
Medical Drone Delivery Success in Ireland
In September, it was reported on the world’s first BVLOS medical delivery in Ireland.

Researchers at NUI Galway partnered with German drone startup Wingcopter to transport prescription medication and blood samples for diabetes patients.

This week, the research team released more details about the project in an ENDO 2020 abstract to be published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.



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