The Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) engine could propel a 22,000-lb. robotic spacecraft to Saturn in a mere 2-years instead of 6.75-years, or way out to Pluto within 5-years of launch rather than 9.5-years. Plus, since the engine doubles as a potent power source, it could have a broad range of off-Earth applications too, like to help power NASA’s future moon-orbiting space station, called Gateway. “DFD is different from other fusion-reactor concepts,” said Stephanie Thomas, vice president of Princeton Satellite Systems in Plainsboro, New Jersey. Read more for two additional videos and information.
“The DFD’s interior will feature a magnetically contained hot plasma of helium-3 and deuterium, a special ‘heavy’ type of hydrogen that has one neutron in its nucleus. The fusing plasma heats up cool propellant flowing outside the confinement region. This propellant is directed out a nozzle at the back of the engine, producing thrust. All that heat translates to a lot of power — likely between 1 and 10 megawatts, Thomas said. The DFD will tap into that power, using a ‘Brayton cycle’ engine to convert much of the heat into electricity,” reports Space.com.