Propulsion development

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zbarlici
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Propulsion development

Postby zbarlici » Sun Aug 03, 2008 12:59 am

Suppose we had a positive peer review in front of us today. How long would it take Nasa(or to whomever the engineering would be directed) to implement the polywell into a spacecraft as a propulsion engine. What kind of timeframe would we be looking at considering no big setbacks?

blaisepascal
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Re: Propulsion development

Postby blaisepascal » Sun Aug 03, 2008 2:27 am

zbarlici wrote:Suppose we had a positive peer review in front of us today. How long would it take Nasa(or to whomever the engineering would be directed) to implement the polywell into a spacecraft as a propulsion engine. What kind of timeframe would we be looking at considering no big setbacks?


This is a wild-assed guess, from someone who admittedly doesn't know much about the actual physics. (That's not to say that many on this forum do know much about the actual physics, seeing as good data to base theory on is hard to find right now).

I'm going to define what I'd expect from a positive peer review: Validation that a "whiffleball" is forming; validation that an electron plasma is magnetostatically confined to form a virtual cathode; validation that ions are electrostatically confined within the "polywell"; good solid measurements of electric and magnetic field strengths thoughout the geometry of the device; repeated, statistically significant measurements of actual fusion activity.

Based on the goals and size of the WB-7 experiment, I'd expect at least two more scaled up experimental machines to be built to characterize the performance of the polywell concept before any production machines would be designed. I'd expect engineering effort to be put into the other technologies necessary to turn a polywell reactor into a viable system (for power generation, thermal would probably come first, as it requires no really new technologies, just figuring out the best ways to extract heat from the system; direct conversion would probably require a working p-B11 reactor as a test bed for experimenting with direct conversion schemes). For a propulsion system that doesn't simply use a polywell power generator as a replacement for an existing power generation system, that sounds like new technology to me, so a development program would be needed for those.

My guess, based on what EMC2 has said, is that if the WB-7 validates the results and hype of the WB-6, given the money they say they need, we'd have a net-power D-D testbed reactor within a couple of years, a net-power p-B11 testbed reactor within 5, a testbed electric generation plant within 10, and commercial electric generation plants within 15. The 2nd-generation direct-conversion plants would probably be 10 years later.

I wouldn't expect the Navy to jump in with a large propulsion system development program until after the net-power D-D testbed reactor validated the whole concept. As such, I could see them getting a testbed boat outfitted with a D-D reactor plant and an all-electric drive system within 5 years of D-D viability.

In other words, in the best of all possible cases, I see commercial utilization of Polywell tech no sooner than 15 years.

But that's a wild-ass guess.

djolds1
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Re: Propulsion development

Postby djolds1 » Sun Aug 03, 2008 5:56 am

zbarlici wrote:Suppose we had a positive peer review in front of us today. How long would it take Nasa(or to whomever the engineering would be directed) to implement the polywell into a spacecraft as a propulsion engine. What kind of timeframe would we be looking at considering no big setbacks?


Assuming "validation" is a 100MW Gen0 all up demonstrator...

At least two more test generations, 1GW and 10GW.

IIRC the "standard" BFR for the QED rockets was 8GW thermal.

Normal "sedate" development, 15-25 years.

WW2 crash V2/Manhattan Project priority, caution-be-damned, 2.5-6 years.
Vae Victis

MSimon
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Postby MSimon » Sun Aug 03, 2008 6:37 am

I agree with blaisepascal and Duane.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Sun Aug 03, 2008 7:23 am

I agree with blaisepascal, except I reckon the US govt and public would heavily back Bussard reactor research to considerably reduce the 10-15 years delay.

zbarlici
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Be swift!

Postby zbarlici » Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:56 pm

I just thought back to the original Google video where bussard does his rough estimate based on something like a 2% royalty fee, whomever owns the patents, well once they get the Gigawat polywells they can actually start making money on royalties by getting the polywells built EVERYWHERE.

I forgot the $$ figure bussard gave, but it was huge royalty money.

It makes sense that anybody would try to get into the money ASAP. We could see quick development times for the 100Mw & the Gw prototypes. You aint makin any money till you got something to sell.

djolds1
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Postby djolds1 » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:34 am

Betruger wrote:I agree with blaisepascal, except I reckon the US govt and public would heavily back Bussard reactor research to considerably reduce the 10-15 years delay.


Skunk Works and other Military/Intel Black Projects, probable.

"Permissible" civilian applications in the EU/US? I doubt it. Our society has become too litigious and enamored of the Precautionary Principle.

One reason I look forward to products available via "Energía de la Argentina." :)

Duane
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ccain84
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China's Influence

Postby ccain84 » Mon Aug 04, 2008 3:43 pm

Non-physicist here. IF it works as hoped for, I think all these times will be greatly reduced for 1 simple reason: China.

China, which

1) doesn't know or care about the meaning of "intellectual property" and
2) has a serious energy/pollution problem (worse than ours),

will promptly steal polywell and run with it. To be competitive, we'll HAVE to "manhatten-ize" polywell or be left behind, economically speaking.

Just a theory...
Of all the gin joints in all the world...

Jeff Peachman
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Postby Jeff Peachman » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:04 pm

Well, assuming someone does develop it (China, Nasa, ?), how cheap could we guess that a mass produced ARC QED might be? Could it someday be comparable to the cost of large turbofan engines on commercial airliners? Or is the complexity high enough that these engines will only be used on military or nasa spacecraft for many years?

I suspect these engines will be extremely expensive...

(Note: I'd like to assume we don't have nano-assemblers or anything like that.)
- Jeff Peachman

Jeff Peachman
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Re: Be swift!

Postby Jeff Peachman » Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:50 pm

Sorry for the double post but...

zbarlici wrote:I just thought back to the original Google video where bussard does his rough estimate based on something like a 2% royalty fee, whomever owns the patents, well once they get the Gigawat polywells they can actually start making money on royalties by getting the polywells built EVERYWHERE.

I forgot the $$ figure bussard gave, but it was huge royalty money.


Since the government is paying for it, why don't they charge a small royalty to anyone who wants to liscense it so that they can pay off our huge deficit? This is an argument we could make to help ensure the full sized reactor gets funded.
- Jeff Peachman

Tom Ligon
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Postby Tom Ligon » Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:13 pm

When we were still in Manassas Park, one NASA facility was keenly interested in the Polywell ... I think it was at Marshall. At the time, I believe they were "without a program" which meant good candidates to be cut. I don't know how they fared, but they had no money to support the project.

About that time, Goldin had a Mars propulsion project called "Strategy F", which meant they knew they needed either fission or fusion to reach the performance figures needed to get to Mars in style. The fission approach would have been the rebirth of NERVA (the end result of Dr. Bussard's Rover program), and the two fusion approaches would have been Polywell or a tokamak (about the size and mass of an aircraft carrier).

NASA knows about it and will be immediately interested in any demonstration of a practical Polywell. Getting funding to do something with it will take selling Congress. The third option would be (assuming the inventor was getting filthy rich on licensing fees for the reactor) private funding of spaceflight. This particular pipe dream exists only in an unpublished novella.

Aero
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Postby Aero » Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:24 pm

Tom Ligon wrote:The third option would be (assuming the inventor was getting filthy rich on licensing fees for the reactor) private funding of spaceflight. This particular pipe dream exists only in an unpublished novella.


Tom - How does Virgin Galactic size up wrt this pipe dream? Or maybe one of the other space entrepenures.
Aero

TallDave
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Postby TallDave » Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:26 pm

Jeff Peachman wrote:Well, assuming someone does develop it (China, Nasa, ?), how cheap could we guess that a mass produced ARC QED might be? Could it someday be comparable to the cost of large turbofan engines on commercial airliners? Or is the complexity high enough that these engines will only be used on military or nasa spacecraft for many years?

I suspect these engines will be extremely expensive...

(Note: I'd like to assume we don't have nano-assemblers or anything like that.)


Jeff,

I doubt Polywells will ever be small enough to economically run anything less massive than a battleship (which no modern navy fields anymore), and maybe nothing smaller than a supercarrier. WB-6 was plane-engine sized (with vacuum chamber) and produced something like a milliwatt of power for a quarter-millisecond.

Cost isn't everything to the military, of course. The ability to run with a nearly infinite fuel supply that masses nearly nothing is very attractive, so they might find a way to put one on a cruiser, or even a C-5. And for rocketry, it's practically the Holy Grail, since currently something like 99% of the mass of a space flight is fuel.
Last edited by TallDave on Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Aero
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Postby Aero » Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:48 pm

So it powers the Star Ship Enterprise or maybe the Millenium Falcon, but not an X-wing fighter. And space pleasure yatchs will be EXPENSIVE, or at least BIG.
Aero

Tom Ligon
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Postby Tom Ligon » Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:55 pm

Aero,

The pipe dream (i.e. my fictional account of something Dr. Bussard had in the back of his mind) was to merge a previous story ("Amateurs") with Polywell-based propulsion systems.

"Amateurs" was a story based on a fellow I had been corresponding with, a self-confessed crazy rocket scientist named James Victor-Hugo Hill. Jim was running something like Talk-Polywell, not quite open-source, but an internet-based amateur group. The goal was to build a small 4-seat SSTO in his barn. This was already underway when the X-Prize and CATS Prize were announced. The accompanying fact article, "Prospectus", was a plea to set up rules to make this sort of adventure possible. I've since learned I have a fan who read these two, who works at the FAA and they're actively working along these lines. The FAA officially wants private organizations to be able to commercialize access to space.

The sequel to "Amateurs" introduced a character named "Q. V. Harris", who teamed up with crazy rocket scientist Jake Knoll to build IEF-powered spacecraft, including lunar/Mars landers, Mars transports, and the air-breathing SSTO. The story was submitted with "The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor", but only the article was published ... evidently the story was too far out for science fiction!

While the development would almost certainly be beyond the scope of planned private tourist orbital craft, at least for purposes of fiction, the idea was already to consider that sort of activity. It was quite gratifying to see Rutan (specifically mentioned in my fact article as being the sort who would do this) build a successful suborbital craft, and to see Virgin jump in and look for a viable commercial application.


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