Planetary surface power and interstellar propulsion using fission fragment magnetic collimator reactor Conference Paper uri icon


  • Fission energy can be used directly if the kinetic energy of fission fragments is converted to electricity and/or thrust before turning into heat. The completed US DOE NERI Direct Energy Conversion (DEC) Power Production project indicates that viable DEC systems are possible. The US DOE NERI DEC Proof of Principle project began in October of 2002 with the goal to demonstrate performance principles of DEC systems. One of the emerging DEC concepts is represented by fission fragment magnetic collimator reactors (FFMCR). Safety, simplicity, and high conversion efficiency are the unique advantages offered by these systems. In the FFMCR, the basic energy source is the kinetic energy of fission fragments. Following escape from thin fuel layers, they are captured on magnetic field lines and are directed out of the core and through magnetic collimators to produce electricity and thrust. The exiting flow of energetic fission fragments has a very high specific impulse that allows efficient planetary surface power and interstellar propulsion without carrying any conventional propellant onboard. The objective of this work was to determine technological feasibility of the concept. This objective was accomplished by producing the FFMCR design and by analysis of its performance characteristics. The paper presents the FFMCR concept, describes its development to a technologically feasible level and discusses obtained results. Performed studies offer efficiencies up to 90% and velocities approaching speed of light as potentially achievable. The unmanned 10-tons probe with 1000 MW FFMCR propulsion unit would attain mission velocity of about 2% of the speed of light. If the unit is designed for 4000 MW, then in 10 years the unmanned 10-tons probe would attain mission velocity of about 10% of the speed of light. 2006 American Institute of Physics.

name of conference

  • SPACE TECH.& APPLIC.INT.FORUM-STAIF 2006: 10th Conf Thermophys Applic Microgravity; 23rd Symp Space Nucl Pwr & Propulsion; 4th Conf Human/Robotic Tech & Nat'l Vision for Space Explor.; 4th Symp Space Coloniz.; 3rd Symp on New Frontiers & Future Concepts

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 5.95

author list (cited authors)

  • Tsvetkov, P. V., Hart, R. R., King, D. B., & Rochau, G. E.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Tsvetkov, PV||Hart, RR||King, DB||Rochau, GE

publication date

  • January 2006


  • AIP  Publisher