Project Icarus: Nuclear Fusion Propulsion Concept Comparison


M. Stanic (2012), JBIS65, 232-243

Refcode: 2012.65.232
Keywords: Project Icarus, Fusion Propulsion

Project Icarus will use nuclear fusion as the primary propulsion, since achieving breakeven is imminent within the next decade. Therefore, fusion technology provides confidence in further development and fairly high technological maturity by the time the Icarus mission would be plausible. Currently there are numerous (over 2 dozen) different fusion approaches that are simultaneously being developed around the World and it is difficult to predict which of the concepts is going to be the most successful one. This study tried to estimate current technological maturity and possible technological extrapolation of fusion approaches for which appropriate data could be found. Figures of merit that were assessed include: current technological state, mass and volume estimates, possible gain values, main advantages and disadvantages of the concept and an attempt to extrapolate current technological state for the next decade or two. Analysis suggests that Magnetic Confinement Fusion (MCF) concepts are not likely to deliver sufficient performance due to size, mass, gain and large technological barriers of the concept. However, ICF and PJMIF did show potential for delivering necessary performance, assuming appropriate techno- logical advances. This paper is a submission of the Project Icarus Study Group.