Russia Announces Electrode Less Plasma Rocket Engine Project

  • Electrode-less plasma rocket engine will allow for faster space travel.
  • The US is working on the VASIMR project for faster travel to space.
  • Russia's prototype completion date is 2021.

Russia announced their intention to create an electrode-less plasma rocket engine prototype. The engine will be made by the Russian Kurchatov Institute with a target completion date of 2021. The Kurchatov Institute is one of the leading entities in the field of nuclear energy research and development. It is named after Igor Kurchatov, who was widely known as the director of the Soviet atomic bomb project and one of the top nuclear physicists. Kurchatov is known as the “father of the Soviet atomic bomb” and later, “the father of the Soviet Nuclear Missile.

From 1940 onward, Igor Kurchatov worked on and contributed to the advancement of the nuclear weapons program, and later advocated for the peaceful development of nuclear technology. In 1950, Kurchatov contributed in the development of the Hydrogen bomb with Andrei Sakharov who originated this development as Sakharov’s Third Idea.

Furthermore, the forefather of the electrode less concept was Nikola Tesla. However, his idea pertained to electrode-less induction lighting. Nicola Tesla demonstrated wireless transfer of power to electrode-less lamps in his lectures and articles in the 1890s, and subsequently patented a system of light and power distribution on those principles.

According to the contract pertaining to the project, the customer is the subsidiary of the Rosatom (State Nuclear Energy Corporation, the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom), the Russian Scientific Research Institute For Experimental Physics.

The prototype will include a model with electrical power up to 100 kW, with thrust of up to 3 Newtons and a specific impulse of up to 5,000 seconds.

One Newton of force is the force required to accelerate an object with a mass of 1 kilogram 1 meter per second per second. The newton-second (N · s) is the standard unit of impulse. Reduced to base units in the International System of Units ( SI ), a newton-second is the equivalent of a kilogram-meter per second (kg · m/s or kg · m · s -1).

In terms of literal units, impulse is equivalent to momentum, although there is a conceptual difference between the two phenomena. It will also have modernized stand of E-1 in Impulse regime. In physics, the impulse is the change of momentum of an object when the object is acted upon by a force for an interval of time. So, with impulse, you can calculate the change in momentum, or you can use impulse to calculate the average impact force of a collision

Source: NASA

The cost of the project is 750 million Rubles equivalent to $11 million. The flight prototype will include the engine and testing base. The prototype must also have a final engine design for Russia’s defense segment.  The testing of the laboratory prototype has to be completed with a superconducting system.

The main reason for the creation of such engine is due to the future demands of deep space explorations. Current rocket engines run on chemical fuel, which is not good for long term flights. Deep space travel requires faster impulses, which cannot be achieved by liquid rocket engines.

An similar American project  is The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) which is an electrothermal thruster under development for possible use in spacecraft propulsion. It uses radio waves to ionize and heat an inert propellant, then a magnetic field to accelerate the resulting plasma, generating thrust. The engine is created by Ad Astra under NASA supervision. Aethera’s New RF Power Processing Unit for the VASIMR Engine Completed Full Power Acceptance Tests at Ad Astra Rocket Company’s Texas Facility in August 2019.

After completion of the testing, the next step is to begin testing in space.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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