Friday, October 26, 2012

Antimatter Rocket Motor: Physics, Straightforward; Engineering, Not So Much

"Antimatter: Beam Drive"
The Physics of Starship Design, Scott Kircher (2000)

"The hybrid designs (ACMF and AIM) discussed in previous sections seem quite complicated. They require the juxtaposition of the three highest energy yielding technologies known to humankind just to create a spacecraft that is barely capable of leaving the solar system. What if...."

People know how to build beamed core antimatter rocket motors. Sort of.

The physics are fairly straightforward. What's holding up production, apart from the rather small demand for interstellar vehicles, is our lack of technology. For one thing, humanity doesn't have magnets that are light enough for a practical vehicle - and, perhaps more to the point, can operate at extremely high temperatures.

Impractical: At the Time

The Lemming is reminded of the situation when Tsiolkovsky published 'The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices" back in 1903. His equations were interesting, but quite impractical.

At that time, even cutting-edge propulsion technology, like the diesel engine, didn't have anywhere near enough power to lift a vehicle into low Earth orbit - let alone send something to the Moon or Mars. (Wikipedia)

"When it's Time to Build Spaceships..."

In the Lemming's opinion:
We're probably not decades away from antimatter rockets, as folks in 1903 were only a half-century away from space flight. But the Lemming isn't inclined to think that traveling outside the Solar system is 'impossible,' either.

There's some interesting theoretical work on a warp drive, too. Again, the energy requirements are staggering, the warp field might not be stable, and keeping passengers alive would be difficult. But 'impossible?' The Lemming is not ready to say that.

Then there's the question of why we're not up to our hips in the space-alien equivalent of 50-gallon oil drums.

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