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Redmond-based researchers, scientists are developing a nuclear-fusion-powered rocket that could be Mars bound

A concept image of a spacecraft powered by a fusion-driven rocket. In this image, the crew would be in the forward-most chamber. Solar panels on the sides would collect energy to initiate the process that creates fusion. - Courtesy of University of Washington, MSNW
A concept image of a spacecraft powered by a fusion-driven rocket. In this image, the crew would be in the forward-most chamber. Solar panels on the sides would collect energy to initiate the process that creates fusion.
— image credit: Courtesy of University of Washington, MSNW

University of Washington researchers and scientists at UW's Redmond-based Plasma Dynamics Laboratory are building components of a nuclear-fusion-powered rocket that could send humans to Mars.

“Using existing rocket fuels, it’s nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth,” said lead researcher John Slough — a UW research associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics — on the university's website. “We are hoping to give us a much more powerful source of energy in space that could eventually lead to making interplanetary travel commonplace.”

Slough's research partners are Anthony Pancotti, David Kirtley and George Votroubek, all of MSNW of Redmond; Christopher Pihl, research engineer in aeronautics and astronautics at UW; and Michael Pfaff, a UW doctoral student in aeronautics and astronautics.

According to its website, MSNW is developing revolutionary space propulsion technologies that will dramatically increase the operational capabilities of spacecraft in traditional roles and enable more ambitious missions. MSNW also conducts cutting-edge research into advanced nuclear-fusion technologies with the potential to produce competitive commercial energy generation.

The project is funded through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program.

More to come in the Reporter on this story.

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