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Originally posted by Hastobemoretolife
The question I have is if they are going to use a nuclear reactor to get to Mars in 39 days wouldn't they be able to design a different engine that would lift them to orbit?
"It's the most powerful superconducting plasma source ever, as far as we know," says Jared Squire, director of research at Ad Astra.
Now all we need to do is have some way to safely replicate the Earth's magnetic field to protect our spacecraft from the not so nice radiation and similar out in space beyond Earth's protection. Otherwise heavy lead plating comes to mind but that simply adds unneeded weight to the ship itself.
Left to itself, a plasma - like a gas - will occupy all the geometrical space available, because of the collisions between the particles. Magnetic fields can confine a plasma, because the ions and electrons of which it consists will follow helical paths around the magnetic field lines.
If a vessel containing plasma is placed in a rectilinear magnetic field, the particles of plasma cannot reach the side walls, but they will strike the ends of the vessel. To prevent the particles from coming into contact with the material walls in this way, two types of magnetic configuration have been studied :
in which the intensity of the magnetic field is increased at the ends of the container so that the particles are reflected by the ´magnetic mirrorª before they can come into contact with any material. Unfortunately particle collision effects render the system liable to high particles losses at the mirror points and such systems are no longer being considered as potential reactors;
in which the risk of losses is removed by curving the magnetic lines around to form a closed loop. Theoretical study of particle trajectories shows that, if the particles are to be confined, the toroidal field must have superimposed upon it a field component perpendicular to it (i.e. a poloidal field). The force lines of the total field thus become spiral (helical) paths, along and around which the plasma particles are guided.
There are several types of toroidal confinement system, each with its own method of producing helical magnetic field lines. The main types are :
Reversed Field Pinch devices.
In a Tokamak, the toroidal field is created by a series of coils evenly spaced around the torus, and the poloidal field is created by a strong electric current flowing through the plasma.
In a Stellarator, the helical lines of force are produced by a series of coils which may themselves be helical in shape. No current is induced in the plasma.
In a Reversed Field Pinch (RFP) device, the toroidal and poloidal components of the field are created as in a tokamak, except that the current flowing through the plasma is much stronger than in a tokamak with the same toroidal field. The magnetic fields are set up on a time scale such that they undergo a spontaneous internal reorganization,and the direction of the toroidal field within the plasma is reversed.