Richard Dinan on the future of space travel
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Richard Dinan is the visionary entrepreneur who wants to help humans leave Earth and inhabit other planets in the Milky Way. And he wants to do it fast. His company, Pulsar Fusion, is betting on harnessing the power of nuclear in space to cut the time it takes to get to Mars in half – and unlock the secrets beyond our Solar System.
Speaking exclusively to Science Digest, the former Made In Chelsea star, 35, said: “In the Milky Way there are believed to be billions of habitable planets orbiting G-type stars like ours.
“That doesn’t mean that they’ve got people on them, but it means that they could support life.
“We’re living in a world now where maybe the entrepreneurs of the future can own their own planets.
“To do that, they will need very, very fast rockets.
“That may sound like a ludicrous thing to say, but we are almost there – Mars has got quite a keen interest.
“I think part of being human is to leave our planet – we’ve always followed the stars since prehistoric times and now we need to emulate that.”
To make this possible, Mr Dinan wants to replicate the fusion process used by stars like our Sun.
Tipped as the “holy grail” energy source, nuclear fusion has been studied for over a century.
Unlike nuclear fission – the powerful reaction that led to the creation of nuclear weapons – fusion takes two light atomic nuclei to combine to form a single heavier one while releasing massive amounts of energy.
WATCH THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD DINAN HERE
This promise opens up the possibility to create “limitless” energy here on Earth – and so experts across the globe are currently racing to harness it.
But, Mr Dinan says, the “other big promise that fusion gives us is to leave our Solar System”.
He added: “It means that we are not just that species that ultimately just start to destroy all our planet’s resources and then blow ourselves up.
“We don’t know our future, but if we can do fusion, it means we can power our planet cleanly forever and it means that we can actually leave our Solar System.
“The speed that rocket engines that use fire move at will never give us that speed.
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“Pulsar knows we can build a fusion rocket engine well before anyone builds a fusion power station.”
Currently, rocket engines used by the likes of NASA utilise stored propellants as the reaction mass for forming a high-speed propulsive jet of fluid, usually high-temperature gas.
They produce thrust by ejecting mass rearward by using the combustion of reactive chemicals like liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants.
Mr Dinan, instead, hopes to harness “the most powerful force we’ve ever seen to dramatically increase fuel density and temperature.
He added: “It will give us the ability to produce a thousand times the exhaust speeds of a plasma engine.
“It means that a mission to Mars could be reduced by half – we think we can get 350km/second.
“The other thing is going beyond our Solar System – the further you go the more benefit you get.
“Mars may be your first spot, but there is a star system called Alpha Centauri that is 4.2 million light-years from Earth.
“You are never, ever going to be able to get there by setting fire to things – but a fusion engine can do it in 11 years.”
Pulsar Fusion has already tested its plasma engines that will be used to get their rocket into space.
They plan to test its nuclear reactor on Earth next year.
Mr Dinan explained: “You don’t want to lift really heavy things into space, it’s much more efficient to assembly them all in space.
“Our plan is to build a fusion rocket on Earth and test it here and then use plasma rockets to launch it into space in three pieces.
“Once they are in space they can navigate using fusion thrusters so they can come together and assemble in orbit.
“Then we can turn on our rocket engine – and we want to do that by 2027.
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