VASIMR Plasma Propulsion
Small Fusion Systems
In the past few months the three items of my extreme interest have hit the news, and it has me pondering if NASA may be putting together (finally) a real set of architectures for a larger solar system mission. The most recent news about Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz’s Ad Astra VASIMR getting the go-ahead for a mission seemed like a final puzzle piece falling into place. See:
If a mission to places farther than Earth orbit or Mars are to become anything other than naked, skin-of-the-teeth exploration forays, we will have to have propulsion sources like VASIMR. You need something that can cross these larger distances quickly, be reusable and re-directable to multiple destinations, and be able to perform an abort is something goes wrong. VASIMR is capable of doing all of those things.
There was also the news late last year about Lockheed Martin’s small, but high-power-density fusion power plants now in development, discussed here:
In short, these are the power systems VASIMR is looking for. They make the mission work.
And now we have OSIRIS-REx going forward with spacecraft assembly for its 2016 launch, announced right on the heels of Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM) option B being given the green light for development.
The combination of these three things, the Triad, are the road for development of the solar system. Resource exploitation and permanent human exploration and settlement ride that road.