And Pulsar Fusion CEO (and former Made in Chelsea cast member) Richard Dinan has said testing will now get underway in real world conditions as the company looks to step up its efforts. Specialist cameras show the rocket engine firing up using deep sea protective cases and shielding in order to protect the cameras from destruction – the first time such a process has been captured on camera. Pulsar specialises in developing nuclear fusion technology for use as propulsion.
While governments plan to demonstrate the world’s first nuclear fusion reactor (ITER) in 2025, by then Pulsar aims to have demonstrated nuclear fusion rocket engines in space.
Mr Dinan and his colleague, Pulsar’s head of operations Dr James Lambert, captured the 4k resolution footage using a camera facing directly into the nozzle of the hyper-fast rocket engine, designed for use in deep space.
In the clip, viewers can see a ring of plasma at the core burning at millions of degrees – hotter than any gas on Earth – which is confined by an electromagnetic field firing out particles at speeds of almost 12.5 miles a second.
CEO Richard Dinan’s Pulsar Fusion has reached another landmark
The plasma engine burning at millions of degrees in the latest experiment
The fuel-heavy, fiery exhausts of today’s space rockets will eventually be replaced by the type of super-hot, plasma thrusters show in the video.
Such means of propulsion are not suitable for launching spacecraft from Earth – but become highly effective once they have left the atmosphere.
Plasma thrusters can operate at much higher speeds than conventional combustion rockets – potentially as fast as 100,000 miles per hour – dramatically reducing mission times.
Richard Dinan and Dr James Lambert in their lab in Bletchley
Flight times to Mars, for example, could be halved.
After reaching the latest milestone, the privately owned UK business now plans to test the technology in space.
Dr Lambert said: “Pulsar has earned its place as one of the most advanced, privately owned space propulsion companies in the World. We are delighted with the result.”
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Plasma engines could power future space exploration
Plasma engines could theoretically halve journey times to Mars
Mr Dinan added: “Pulsar will now commence testing of this technology in real world conditions with our partners in the USA, whilst simultaneously beginning construction of our larger, next generation device due for completion in 2022.”
Express.co.uk visited Pulsar’s laboratory in March, and was given a guided tour of the facilities, with the pair suggesting they could be in a position to unveil a working, full-sized version of their engine within two years.
At the time, Dr Lambert said: “We make rocket engines and we are particularly interested in a branch of rocket engines called electric propulsion.
“And this is something that has been around and used for many decades. electric propulsion is most popular when you want a very efficient, but quite weak style of thrusters.
“So they’re frequently used to reposition satellites. They’re not used to launch things into space.
“We believe that there’s a very interesting product roadmap in electric propulsion right now.
“And we want to take it from this low powered, delicate manoeuvring-type device to a scaled up fusion powered rocket that is appropriate for interplanetary travel. Ultimately, that’s the goal.”
Richard Dinan, a former Made in Chelsea cast member, by the prototype engine
The prototype of the plasma engine in Bletchley
In the initial tests, he explained a huge amount of energy is put into argon gas, the propellant, to produce a high temperature plasma similar to that found in a nuclear fusion reactor, before an electromagnetic field is used to shoot out the plasma at very high speeds.
However, he added: “When we’re ready to actually test that concept fully, somewhere down the line, we’d operate it with hydrogen.”
Mr Dinan said: “What really excites me is I know how possible it is.
“We’re doing what the world’s greatest physicists have shown to be true.”