Bussard’s ramjet ideas, followed by Whitmire’s modifications, really did open up the idea of practical interstellar flight some fifty years ago, but. Zero. T. A. Heppenheimer analyzed Bussard’s original suggestion of fusing protons, but found the bremsstrahlung losses (Bremsstrahlung is. It was in that the physicist Robert W Bussard first proposed the interstellar ramjet in his seminal paper . Bussard was born in and.
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It was in that the physicist Robert W Bussard first proposed the interstellar ramjet in his seminal rmajet . Bussard was born in and died in Throughout his spectacular career he had worked on many interesting things, including the nuclear thermal rocket program in the s, called Project Rover. He produced two exceptional monographs based on this research.
Interstellar ramjets – Initiative for Interstellar Studies
He is also considered the inventor of the Polywell, a type of inertial electrostatic confinement fusion reactor, funded by the US Navy. The interstellar busasrd method featured in the excellent Poul Anderson book, Tau Zero . The ramjet was a proposed variant of the fusion engine, but rather than carrying along its own fuel, it would use enormous electromagnetic fields to ram scoop hydrogen from the interstellar medium.
The high energy protons enter the ram scoop, confined by magnetic bjssard lines and then meeting under the conditions for fusion reactions to occur, producing a high energy exhaust jet. In theory, if the interstellar ramjet can be made to work, then relativistic star travel will be possible.
This means trips to the nearest stars in only a matter of years travel time as the spacecraft continues to approach the speed of light barrier, but never quite reaches it.
Indeed, trips to the centre of the galaxy, approximately 30, light years away, may buasard possible within a few decades trip time, although a very long time would have past back on Earth due to the special relativity time dilation effect, as first predicted by Albert Einstein in his paper. However, over the years, several physics and engineering problems have bussaard found with the interstellar ramjet making it less credible as a real option for interstellar flight.
This includes the fact that in order to ram scoop sufficient hydrogen fuel for the fusion reactions to take place, the spacecraft must already be travelling very fast, which implies carrying some on-board propellant to start with. Also, maintaining a constant thrust profile for long period durations, whilst the engine is over-heating may be problematic. The maintenance of a very large electromagnetic field configuration over such large distances presents a real problem for aspiring interstellar engineers.
For the on-board crew there is rzmjet problem of finding areas of the interstellar medium where the density of interstellar hydrogen or busaard particles is sufficiently abundant. The worst problem which may ramjte the interstellar famjet from ever being realizable, is the apparent fact that the drag force generated as the large scoop passes through the interstellar medium, ramjef exceed the thrust generated by the engine. Over the years, variations on the interstellar ramjet design have been proposed.
This includes the Ram Augmented Interstellar Ramjet, first proposed in  by Daedalus designer Alan Bond, using the interstellar hydrogen only as a reaction mass. The interstellar hydrogen is not converted to helium in a fusion reaction, but instead it is accelerated by on-board fusion reactions from fuel which the Starship already carries. Daniel Whitmire made a proposal in  for a catalytic ramjet, which instead uses the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycle producing fusion at a higher rate than in the proton-proton chain associated with the direct collection of hydrogen.
Aerospace engineers Dana Andrews and Robert Zubrin have famjet studied the interstellar ramjet in . Other notable research has also been done which is worth reading . It is often said that the interstellar ramjet is the great hope for interstellar travel.
Even the pioneering interstellar physicist Robert Forward, a proponent of propellantless propulsion, spent some time looking at interstellar ramjets.
The physicist Greg Matloff vies ramjets as thus: As fantastic as these ideas may seem, we should be open-minded about them, not cavalierly rule them out because of their current infeasibility. After all, the march of technology is full of well-known surprises and serendipity.
To cite one example: However, if one could build a vussard that could accelerate to relativistic speeds, then it is possible to reduce trip times to the nearest stars to a few years. Accelerating and ramjey at 1g to would bring the spacecraft to the nearest star of Alpha Centauri 4.
These trip times become even more mind boggling when applied to the scale of galaxies. A trip to the centre of the Milky Way at 30, light years distance would take around 20 years and to the edge of the Andromeda galaxy a mere 28 years. How can it be possible that such vastly distant locations in the Universe can be reached within such a short transit time? Well, it comes at a penalty, due to the time dilation effect.
What may only seem like years or decades to the crew aboard the ship will be the equivalent of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years back home on Earth.
If the crew were ever able to turn the ship back towards home, they would return to a very different planet, a very different civilization and a species that may not even be aware of their existence. If we can ever build relativistic spacecraft they will come at a price. Anderson, Tau Zero, Doubleday, Space Sci, Vol, 11, pp.
But those plans require resources — of people, time and money.
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Join i4is for a journey to the stars! News from the Initiative for Interstellar Studies In this section you can read some of the latest news from i4is and the world of interstellar studies.
Starship Blog With the recent creation of the new i4is website, along with the newer blogs, we have included a selection of previous Starship Blog posts from our archive which we hope you will enjoy browsing. Donate The Initiative for Interstellar Studies is entirely dependent upon the goodwill of its volunteer teams, the minor amounts we receive from our activities and the sale of our merchandise but also the kindness of donors.