Pulsar Fusion plans 500,000 mph nuclear rocket

Ambitious UK aerospace company Pulsar Fusion has revealed plans to build a nuclear fusion rocket engine capable of producing temperatures hotter than the Sun.

Pulsar Fusion

The rocket’s eight-metre fusion chamber is currently being assembled in Bletchley, England. Its design has been informed by the success of the Princeton field-reversed configuration (PFRC) fusion programme, combined with AI and machine learning to optimise the magnetic fields required to confine the fusion plasma and power the rocket engine.

“The difficulty is learning how to hold and confine the super-hot plasma within an electromagnetic field,” said Dr James Lambert, CFO of Pulsar Fusion. “The plasma behaves like a weather system in terms of being incredibly hard to predict using conventional techniques.

 “Scientists have not been able to control the turbulent plasma as it is heated to hundreds of millions of degrees and the reaction simply stops. This unpredictability is attributed to the science Magneto-Hydro Dynamics (MHD) and Gyrokinetics, the state of the plasma is changing all the time.

“Scientists can get to fusion temperatures, as recently demonstrated at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in 2022, and this will be achieved again more often going forward, but small improvements can dramatically improve the results in our favour.”

Founded by Made in Chelsea alumnus Richard Dinan, Pulsar Fusion currently produces chemical and electric propulsion systems for the aerospace and defence sectors. But the company has its sights set further afield, claiming its fusion rocket will be able to halve mission times to Mars and facilitate manned journeys to Saturn. Pulsar has partnered with Princeton Satellite Systems to take the data from the PFRC-2 reactor, passing it through supercomputer simulations to better predict how super-hot plasma behaves under electromagnetic confinement.

Richard Dinan - Pulsar Fusion

“Our current satellite engines we make today at Pulsar, produce up to 25 miles per second in exhaust speeds. We hope to achieve over 10 times that with fusion,” said Pulsar CEO, Dinan. “If the Pulsar rocket test can achieve fusion temperatures at its demonstration to aerospace partners in 2027, then the technology has the potential to half mission times to Mars, reduce flight time to Saturn from eight years to two and ultimately empower humanity to leave our solar system.

“We will be keeping our existing partners up to date at every step even as we begin early firings in 2025, we will be able to know if we are on the right track. Pulsar would then need to conduct a test firing in orbit. To the fusion community, AI truly does have the potential to allow us to achieve engines capable of interstellar space travel.”