What’s Happening Update for 2021
SpaceX Starship Notes- Starship has been developed incredibly fast. Development of the Space Shuttle from go-ahead to first flight was from February 1969 until April 1981 (146 months). As you can see below the Starship went from concept stage to first landing in about 44 months.
November 2018 — BFR, first announced in September 2017, gets renamed Starship
December 2018 — Musk confirms the new ship has switched to stainless steel
February 2019 — Raptor engine beats a long-standing rocket record.
April 2019 — Starhopper completes a tethered “hop”
July 2019 — Starhopper launches 20 meters (67 feet)
August 2019 — Starhopper launches 150 meters (500 feet)
September 2019 — Starship Mk.1 full-size prototype unveiled
May 2020 — Starship SN4 full-size prototype completes a static test fire
August 2020 — SN5 launches 150 meters (500 feet)
October 2020 — SN8 completes the first triple-Raptor static fire
December 2020 — SN8 launches 12.5 kilometers (41,000 feet) and crashes into the ground
February 2021 — SN9 launches 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) and crashes into the ground
March 2021 — SN10 launches 10 kilometers (33,000 feet), lands, and explodes eight minutes later. That same month, SN11 launches 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) and hits the ground in several pieces.
May 2021 — SN15 launches 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) and lands without a hitch, except for a small fire at the base
This is equivalent to hardware developments during WWII when providing the best hardware as fast as possible was critical to national survival. This design, build, break, and redesign approach is not only fast, but cheap, and these are the reasons SpaceX has employed it. We can expect the first Starship orbital test sometime in March 2022. Right now, the test hardware is ready, but FAA approval for the flight test has been delayed.
What’s new in Fusion Reactors – I have previously talked about privately developed Fusion Reactors. Now let’s discuss what the governments laboratories are proposing.
US scientists introduce new fusion reactor concept.
Scientists at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) DIII-D National Fusion Facility have released a new concept for a compact fusion reactor design they say can help define the technology necessary for commercial fusion power. The Compact Advanced Tokamak (CAT) concept enables a higher-performance, self-sustaining configuration that holds energy more efficiently, allowing it to be built at a reduced scale and cost.
Department of Energy Compact Tokomak Reactor Concept
The CAT concept is described in an article published on 19 March in the journal Nuclear Fusion, and was developed from first-of-a-kind reactor simulations. The physics-based approach combines theory developed at the General Atomics (GA)-operated DIII-D facility with computing by Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists using the Cori supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, and is based on development and testing of the underlying physics concepts on DIII-D.
"The key to our approach is to raise the pressure inside the tokamak," the project's lead, Richard Buttery, said. "This makes more fusion occur, allowing us to reduce the current, which in turn makes the plasma easier to sustain and more stable. Our simulations show that by carefully shaping the plasma and moving the current toward its edge, we can suppress turbulent heat losses and support higher pressures at lower currents, to reach a state where the plasma sustains itself. This enables a device that can simply be turned on, generating electricity continuously in a steady state."
Two US bodies - the DOE Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) and the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) - have recently released reports calling for action to develop fusion energy in the USA. FESAC's report sets out a decade-long strategic plan to accelerate the development of fusion energy and advance plasma science, while NASEM's report calls for urgent investment by the government and private sector to enable a pilot fusion plant to be operational in the 2035-2040 timeframe.
A key recommendation of both reports is developing the science and engineering basis for a low-capital-cost fusion pilot plant that will lay the groundwork for commercial fusion reactors, GA said. "As a national strategy for fusion energy takes shape in the United States, this new design helps identify the technologies needed, and alleviates critical design challenges," it added.
All well and good but a decade-long plan seems a little late when privately funded Commonwealth Fusion Systems LLC in Massachusetts and Helion Energy in Washington State have already broken ground on demonstration plants and expect to be generating net Fusion Energy by 2025. Unfortunately, this a very common phenomenon and is why we can’t depend on the government alone to solve our Global Warming Problem. More next year.
Thanks for Reading and have a very Happy New Year,