Scientists at the University of Washington are studying how magnetized-beam plasma propulsion, or mag-beam, could enable quick trips to distant parts of the solar system.
Currently, it would take astronauts about 2.5 years to travel to Mars, conduct their scientific mission and return, but Robert Winglee and his team aim at getting to Mars and back in 90 days.
Usually a spacecraft is a ship with both payload and power source. The MagBeam system separates these two units; the power source can stay in one place (for example, in permanent orbit around the Earth)and use solar energy –resulting in additional cost savings– to push the spacecraft to other parts of the solar system.
Under the MagBeam concept, the plasma propellants are accelerated to much higher speeds than those achieved by chemical rocket propellants, resulting in higher spacecraft velocities – at least 26,000 miles per hour.
A power source has to be installed at each end of a journey; one to accelerate the spacecraft at the start and another at the destination, to decelerate it. But once MagBeam power sources are placed at destinations around the solar system, the system could be operated using solar power alone.
If funding remains consistent, we can we expect a MagBeam test mission to take place within 5 years.
Via Technovelgy UN News.