To date, interplanetary flights (not to mention movements outside our Solar system) rest on one problem — insufficient power of rocket engines. Of course, work is ongoing to improve this component of missiles. Someone is even seriously engaged in the issue of creating an ion engine, but the furthest went NASA engineer David burns, who proposes to use a particle accelerator as an engine.
Let’s make a reservation (as the author of the idea did in his report) that the idea of creating such an engine is only a concept. NASA has no working prototype now. Engineer David Burns of NASA’s Marshall Space center proposed using a particle accelerator that has a spiral shape. He called such an engine “screw.”
Such a space engine can be used to keep satellites in orbit for a long time without refueling, – says Mr. Burns. — It can also be useful when moving spaceships over vast distances, developing a speed close to the light. If, of course, the calculations are correct and they do not contradict the laws of physics.
The design of the engine is based on Newton’s third law. If someone suddenly forgot, then briefly recall: Newton’s third law or the law of equality of action and reaction — one of the three basic laws of Newtonian mechanics. It says that there is always an equal and opposite reaction to every action. As an example, a NASA engineer describes a straight rod sealed on both sides, inside which the cargo moves. A load moving along a straight rod inside the rod will cause it to move back and forth on a friction-free surface.
However, if you use a particle accelerator instead of a cargo, which moves in a spiral, then everything changes. When moving forward, its potential energy increases, and it falls when moving backward. Thus, when the element enters the front chamber of the rod, there is a forward movement. Burns believes that if the screw motor is given enough time and energy, it can achieve potentially relativistic speeds with the particle accelerator.
At the same time, this type of engine has several limitations. First of all, on the Ground to fully test such an engine simply will not work, as it will work only in the absence of friction. That is, in outer space. Another point is the size of the engine itself. With a diameter of 12 meters, its length will be almost 200 meters. And this is just an engine without living quarters, auxiliary equipment, life support systems and so on. In space, such dimensions are small, but so you understand the scale: the ISS now has a length of about 100 meters and the Starship from Elon Musk-about 50 meters.
Another point concerns energy efficiency. It would take about 125 megawatts to get at least one Newton of power. Also, the inefficiency of the installation may occur because its design may violate the law of conservation of momentum. But the engineer believes it is “worth at least a try” before abandoning the idea.