Fusion-enabled pluto orbiter and lander

Stephanie J. Thomas, Michael A. Paluszek, Samuel A. Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

8 Scopus citations


In this paper we present the results of our NIAC Phase I Study on a Fusion-Enabled Pluto Orbiter and Lander. The enabling technology, Direct Fusion Drive, is a unique fusion engine concept based on the Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration (PFRC) fusion reactor under development at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. The truly game-changing levels of thrust and power in a modestly sized package could integrate with our current launch infrastructure while radically expanding the science capability of these missions. NIAC grants require that a technology be studied in the context of a specific mission. Our mission context is the delivery of a Pluto orbiter with a lander, which cannot be done with any other technology. Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) provides moderate thrust to allow for reasonable transit times to Pluto while delivering substantial mass to orbit: 1000 kg delivered in four years using 5 N constant thrust. Since DFD provides power as well as propulsion in one integrated device,1 it will also provide as much as 1 MW of useful electrical power to the payloads upon arrival. This enables high-bandwidth optical communication, powering of the lander from orbit, and radically expanded options for instrument design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
ISBN (Print)9781624104831
StatePublished - 2017
EventAIAA Space and Astronautics Forum and Exposition, SPACE 2017 - Orlando, United States
Duration: Sep 12 2017Sep 14 2017

Publication series

NameAIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum and Exposition, SPACE 2017


ConferenceAIAA Space and Astronautics Forum and Exposition, SPACE 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering


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