Question by Kameron Rogers: What is plasma based propulsion and how far could it take you into space?
Answer by Elizabeth H
VASIMR is a plasma-based propulsion system. An electric power source is used to ionize fuel into plasma. Electric fields heat and accelerate the plasma while the magnetic fields direct the plasma in the proper direction as it is ejected from the engine, creating thrust for the spacecraft. The engine can even vary the amount of thrust generated, allowing it to increase or decrease its acceleration. It even features an “afterburner” mode that sacrifices fuel efficiency for additional speed. Possible fuels for the VASIMR engine could include hydrogen, helium, and deuterium.
A 10- to 20-megawatt VASIMR engine could propel human missions to Mars in just 39 days, whereas conventional rockets would take six months or more.
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