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Plasma Drive

Plasma Drive:

(from Tom’s stories: Red Sands of Revolution, The Way of the Leaving, NAS 842, Gentlemen’s Wager)

Current Plasma Drive Technology:

The Plasma Drive is a new propulsion system in the twenty-first century.  It will become a reliable and constantly refined technology that will be used in everyday life even longer than internal combustion engines were used (it took two hundred years before piston driven motors were finally made fully obsolete).

In a Plasma Drive motor, radio waves heat argon gas to one million degrees and the expansion of the super heated gas is directed out of the motor’s nozzle. To protect the combustion chamber from the heat, a magnetic field acts as a heat shield around the gas combustion.  The result is a motor that can propel a ship up to 35 miles per second (5000 mph). A ship traveling from Earth to the Alpha Centauri system 25,613,263,296,055 miles away using the early forms of Plasma Drives would take 585,165 years to reach.

The Future Technology of Plasma Drives:

While the basics of Plasma Drives remain the same as when they were first used by humanity at the turn of the twenty-first century, new materials and fuels not available on Earth then have helped to increase the maximum speeds of these motors.  While they will never come close to achieving light speed, gases found in the mixes of the upper atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus can be expanded at a higher velocity when heated than the argon gas used in the first motors. The radio waves used to heat the gas can be more precisely tuned to achieve peak efficiency faster than the minimal charging systems of a century before.  The result is that Plasma Drive motors can reach speeds of 350 miles per second (50,000 miles per hour) and more.  Still, only relying on the most efficient plasma drive, a spacecraft would only reduce the time it takes to reach Alpha Centauri down from 585 thousand years to 58 thousand years; which still would have been impractical by this technology. Fortunately other means of propulsion were invented shortly after the final events told in the story, Mother.

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