NASA engineer suggests using a particle accelerator as a rocket engine

Today, interplanetary flights (notspeaking of movements beyond the boundaries of our solar system) rest against one problem - insufficient power of rocket engines. Of course, work is ongoing to improve this component of the missiles. Someone even seriously deals with the issue of creating an ion engine, but NASA engineer David Burns, who proposes to use a particle accelerator as the engine, went farthest.

Particle accelerator as an engine? Why not!

How to build an engine for interplanetary flights?

Let us make a reservation right away (as, in fact, did thisthe author of the idea in his report) that the idea of ​​creating such an engine is just a concept. NASA currently does not have a working prototype. Engineer David Burns from NASA's Marshall Space Center has proposed the use of a particle accelerator that has a spiral shape. He called such an engine "screw".

A similar space engine can be usedin order to keep satellites in orbit for a long time without refueling, says Mr. Burns. “It can also be useful when moving spaceships over vast distances, developing speeds close to light.” Unless, of course, the calculations are correct and they do not contradict the laws of physics.

Engine design based on third lawNewton. If someone suddenly forgot, then briefly recall: Newton’s third law or the law of equality of action and reaction is one of the three basic laws of Newtonian mechanics. He says that every action always has an equal and opposite reaction. As an example, a NASA engineer describes a straight rod sealed on both sides, inside which the load moves. A load moving along a straight rod inside the rod will cause it to move back and forth on a friction-free surface.

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However, if instead of using cargoparticle accelerator, which moves in a spiral, then everything changes. When moving forward, its potential energy increases, and it falls when moving backward. Thus, when the element enters the front chamber of the rod, a forward movement occurs. Burns believes that if the screw engine is given enough time and energy, it will be able to achieve potentially relativistic speeds with the help of the particle accelerator. An illustration of this process is presented in the figure below. What do you think about this engine? Write about it in our chat in Telegram.

The theoretical principle of the new engine

Moreover, this type of engine has a number ofrestrictions. First of all, it will simply not be possible to fully test such an engine on Earth, since it will work only in the absence of friction. That is, in outer space. Another point is the size of the engine itself. With a diameter of 12 meters, its length will be almost 200 meters. And this is just an engine without residential compartments, auxiliary equipment, life support systems and so on. In outer space, such dimensions are small, but for you to understand the scale: the ISS currently has a length of about 100 meters, and Starship from Ilon Mask is about 50 meters.

Another point is energy efficiency. It will take about 125 megawatts to get at least one newton of force. Also, the inefficiency of the installation may arise due to the fact that its design may violate the law of conservation of momentum. But the engineer believes that “it’s worth at least a try” before abandoning this idea. What is your opinion?