NASA 1999 SBIR Phase I


PROPOSAL NUMBER 99-1 03.02-3646 (Chron: 991825 )


MagOrion-A Nuclear Propelled MagSail for Human Exploration of the Outer Planets


Manned exploration beyond Mars requires very high specific energy. The only potential solution under discussion is fusion propulsion. However, fusion has been ten years away for forty years. We have an available solution that combines new technology with an old concept "Project Orion". The proposed "MagOrion" Propulsion System combines a magnetic sail (MagSail) with conventional small yield (0.5 to 1.0 kiloton) shaped nuclear fission devices. At detonation, roughly eighty percent of the yield appears as a highly-ionized plasma, and when detonated two kilometers behind a robust MagSail, approximately half of this plasma can be stopped and turned into thrust. A MagOrion can provide a system acceleration of one or more gravities with effective specific impulses ranging from 15,000 to 45,000 seconds. Dana Andrews and Robert Zubrin published a paper in 1997 that described the operating principles of the MagOrion. We have taken that concept through conceptual design to identify the major operational features and risks. During Phase I of the SBIR, we will quantify the system risks and establish either solutions or areas for risk mitigating demonstrations. The risks are considerable, but the potential payoff is staggering. Our proposed MagOrion will enable affordable exploration of the solar system.


Our MagOrion design is capable of delivering 100 metric tons to either Mars in 65 days or Jupiter in one year. It's high performance makes it the ideal choice as a reusable planetary space "freighter" to support human exploration of the solar system, development of scientific outposts, and even colonization. No other near term propulsion system, including Nuclear Thermal and Ion, can come close to matching the MagOrion's 20,000 seconds of specific impulse and half-million pounds of thrust. As we enter the third millennium, NASA has its sights set on Mars and destinations beyond. The MagOrion, which could be operating before the next decade is out, will enable NASA to cost effectively send human explorers to the primary planetary bodies of our solar system and establish bases on scientifically rich areas such as Mars and Europa. Where as the Space Shuttle is an Earth to orbit space taxi, the MagOrion is a planet to planet heavy lift space "freighter". Although the initial MagOrion customer is NASA, as humans turn to exploit space for its natural resources and entertainment potential, the low operating costs of the MagOrion (estimated at two thousand dollars per pound), could enable commercial ventures on other planets or moons.



Jason Andrews

Andrews Space & Technology

214 Main Street, PMB 195

El Segundo , CA 90245 - 6927

NAME AND ADDRESS OF OFFEROR (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip)

Andrews Space & Technology

214 Main Street, PMB 195

El Segundo , CA 90245 - 3803