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NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts

Pulsed Fission-Fusion Propulsion System (PuFF)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Leveraging insights gained from the weapons physics program, a Z-Pinch device could be used to ignite a thermonuclear deuterium trigger, which could provide a radical improvement in our ability to explore destinations across the solar system and beyond.

Fission-ignited fusion systems have been operational – in weapon form – since the 1950's. Leveraging insights gained from the weapons physics program, a Z-Pinch device could be used to ignite a thermonuclear deuterium trigger. The fusion neutrons will induce fission reaction in a surrounding uranium or thorium liner, releasing sufficient energy to further confine and heat the fusion plasma. The combined energy release from fission and fusion would then be directed using a magnetic nozzle to produce useful thrust. This type of concept could provide the efficiency of open cycle fusion propulsion devices with the relative small size and simplicity of fission systems; and would provide a radical improvement in our ability to explore destinations across the solar system and beyond.

Pulsed Fission-Fusion (PuFF) is a two-stage compression system consisting of a z-pinch and field-reversed configuration.

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