Fusion propulsion and power for extrasolar exploration

Stephanie J. Thomas, Michael Paluszek, Charles Swanson, Samuel Cohen, Slava G. Turyshev

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Direct Fusion Drive (DFD) is a nuclear fusion engine concept that produces both thrust and electric power. Its range of thrust and specific impulse enable extrasolar exploration, reaching near-interstellar distances of 125 AU in 10 years and the solar gravitational lens at 650 AU in 15 years. Even accounting for development time, data collection at 600 AU could start 15 years earlier than with conventional technology. This paper presents the design of an engine for a mission to reach the gravitational lens, which allows the sun to act as a gravitational lens to image exoplanets in nearby star systems. This mission has unique requirements which can be met with fusion power and propulsion, including maneuvering along the focal line and potentially powering a cluster of independent sensing spacecraft to increase the aperture. This paper includes a discussion of a closed-loop non-thrusting mode, which will extend the duration of the mission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberIAC-19_C3_5-C4.7_10_x52968
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
StatePublished - 2019
Event70th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2019 - Washington, United States
Duration: Oct 21 2019Oct 25 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Exoplanet
  • Fusion propulsion
  • Gravitational lens
  • Space power


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