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Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF)In September 2013 the NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) organization awarded a phase I contract to the PuFF team. Our phase 1 proposal discussed a pulsed fission-fusion propulsion system that injected gaseous deuterium (D) and tritium (T) as a mixture in a column, surrounded concentrically by gaseous uranium fluoride (UF6) and then an outer shell of liquid lithium. A high power current would flow down the liquid lithium and the resulting Lorentz force would compress the column by roughly a factor of 10. The compressed column would reach criticality and a combination of fission and fusion reactions would occur. The fission reactions would further energize the fusion center, and the fusion reactions would generate neutrons that promote more complete burnup of the fission fuel. The lithium liner provides some help as a neutron reflector but also acts as a propulsive medium, being converted to plasma which is then expanded against a magnetic nozzle for thrust. The expansion of the (primarily) lithium plasma against the nozzle's magnetic field inducts a current that is used to charge the system for the next pulse. Our concept also included secondary injection of a Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) plasmoid that would provide a secondary compression direction, axially against the column, and push the column away from the injection manifold, increasing the manifold's survivability.Our phase 1 proposal included modeling the above process first under steady state assumptions and second under a time variant integration. We proposed including these results into a Mars concept vehicle and finally proposing promising conditions to be evaluated experimentally in Phase II. In phase I we quickly realized that we needed to modify our approach. Our steady state work was completed as proposed, and the results indicated that one, a two stage compression system was not needed and two, that we wanted to move away from UF6. The steady state model shows much more margin than expected, to the point that we may well reach breakeven with the Charger – 1 facility, a 572 kJ Marx bank currently under refurbishment at UAH. Additionally we found that using gaseous D-T and UF6, provided a relatively simple prospect of using a pulsed injector, made reaching criticality more difficult. The introduction of large amounts of fluorine meant a radiative sink, sapping power from the fusion plasma and was harder to handle. Therefore we moved to a solid uranium target that held D-T under pressure. In so doing we could move our target closer to criticality and remove any material that did not sustain the reaction.
Document ID
Document Type
Adams, Robert B. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Cassibry, Jason (Alabama Univ. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Bradley, David E. (Yetispace, Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Fabisinski, Leo (International Space Systems, Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Statham, Geoffrey (Engineering Research and Consulting (ERC), Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
December 20, 2018
Publication Date
November 2, 2018
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Report/Patent Number
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