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Space Probe Application of IEC Thrusters

George H. Miley et al.

Fusion Science and Technology

Volume 56 / Number 1 / July 2009 / Pages 533-539


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Earlier studies have described Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) fusion power concepts using either D-He3 or p-B11 fuels to provide a high-power density fusion propulsion system capable of aggressive deep space missions. However, this requires a large multi-GW thruster forcing a long term development program. As a first step, we examine here a progression of near-term IEC thrusters, stating with a 1-10 kWe electrically-driven IEC jet thruster for satellites followed by a small 50-100 kW IEC fusion thruster module for next generation large deep space spacecraft. The initial electrically-powered unit is a novel multi-jet plasma thruster based on spherical IEC technology using electrical input power from a solar panel. This type of unit is discussed and its advantages for next step electrically driven units are identified.

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