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Jan 23

From Robber Barons to Rocket Barons

Posted by: JackSarfatti
Tagged in: Untagged 

Sorry for answering your important email so late. the URL on our new work is not yet ready, as it is the paper, the one we presented to the 100YSS Symposium was just a draft. In the meantime, I can give you and your friends the following preliminary info.

We (me, Nembo and our Austrian colleague Ivanhoe) are very glad that you are interested in our new concept for an ultra-high specific impulse ion thruster based on the Indium FEEP (Field Emission Electric Propulsion) technology. As you know, we have  performed a preliminary study that shows the possibility to realize an ion thruster with specific impulses as high as 100,000 s (Ultra-FEEP), thus enabling very challenging interstellar precursor missions, such as the exploration of the Oort Cloud and beyond. Why an ultra-high specific impulse is so important for these deep-space missions? This way we can reduce the propellant mass from tons to kgs, allowing the spacecraft to accelerate to much higher velocities thus greatly reducing the travel  time.

This thruster concept shows unique features if compared to the present ion thruster technologies (including VASIMR):

Ionisation directly from a liquid metal (Indium); no need of a high-temperature plasma.
Ionisation and acceleration taking place in one step with the same electric field.
The most efficient way of carrying propellant, namely in solid state as Indium melts at 157°C.
Very low thermal losses as the emitter electrode is kept just same degrees above melting point (157°C).
No need for extraction and acceleration grids; erosion risk greatly reduced.
NBI ion sources for nuclear fusion research are already working at such ultra-high specific impulses; a new powerful ion source named MITICA is being developed for the ITER project, which will use potentials as high as 1 MV to accelerate a Deuterium ion beam of 40A. However, these ion sources are designed for operational times of just minutes, while ion thrusters for interstellar precursor missions must have a lifetime in the order of 10 years! Severe issues of grid heating and erosion actually limit the maximum acceleration voltage of gridded ion thrusters well below 100 kV. Instead, our novel design of a gridless Indium FEEP Thruster can lead to reliable operation at voltages in the order of 1MV and consequently specific impulses up to 100,000 s.


We believe that this is a very promising propulsion concept for enabling exciting deep-space missions, thus paving the way to the real interstellar flight. However, we must advice you that we are in a very early stage of development. Here is a very preliminary road map for you:

1)      Experimental demonstration of the Ultra-FEEP design feasibility; depending on funding amount, from 2 (1M$/year) to 5 (300k$/year) years.

2)      Realization of an Engineering Model; from 2 (2M$/year) to 6 (500k$/year) years

3)   Qualification of the technology, including verification of the challenging lifetime; from 5 (2M$/year) to 10(1M$/year) years

This means that with enough funding it is possible to qualify this technology in about 10 years. In parallel we hope that a suitable (light and powerful) power source will be available (< 1kg/kW); as you suggested, maybe cold fusion or Pellegrini´s idea.

I hope that you can find this preliminary information interesting, soon we will send you more details.



Mit freundlichen Grüßen/Best regards


Electric Propulsion Testing Engineer - Plasma Devices

Electron Devices

Thales Deutschland

--- Dom 1/1/12, JACK SARFATTI ha scritto:

Oggetto: Re: 100year Italian Star Ship Engineering

I think your actual engineering would be a good project for some aerospace company like Bigelow Aerospace or Virgin Galactica or something new some of my friends may want to set up. Post the best URL of your work in return email for them to look at. Clearly something of value will come out of what you are doing since you are already past Phase 1 and you are using battle-tested mainstream conventional physics.

Check out Brian Josephson's website on the Italian cold fusion project. He is following it closely. Perhaps that could be your source?

Also check out Gerry Pelligrino's claim of violation of Maxwell's thermodynamic relations in magnetostriction - a possible power source. I do not understand either of the two above claims as I do not understand Woodward's and I am not here and now endorsing any of the three - just suggesting others take a look.

On Jan 1, 2012, at 2:00 PM, Angelo wrote:


you are by far too good with us! Troppo buono! We are just two modest italian engineers with a common dream, being able to contribute to the Odissea Interstellare! Our idea of ultra-efficient impulse propulsion can be very good for precursor missions up to 10000 AU, provided that we find a very light power source in the order of MegaWatts!


--- Dom 1/1/12, JACK SARFATTI <sarfatti@pacbell.net> ha scritto:

Da: JACK SARFATTI <sarfatti@pacbell.net>
Oggetto: Re: 100 year Star Ship
A: "Angelo"

Data: Domenica 1 gennaio 2012, 20:24

Hi Angelo
Your work is very good as well as elegant bella figura in the best Italian tradition of Da Vinci.  And if I see an opportunity I will recommend it - most definitely. Your presentation was the best in the actual engineering papers on impulse propulsion at the 100 year Starship Meeting in my opinion. :-)

On Jan 1, 2012, at 2:48 AM, Angelo wrote:

Dear Jack,
good to know that there are people ready to invest so much money on exotic propulsion! However, if they want to invest it only when they are sure that an exotic concept works, how can we find the money to demonstrate that it is working without a doubt?
By the way, we, Nembo and I, are currently processing the patent on our "slower than light" Ultra-High Specific Impulse FEEP Propulsion! We hope that in 2012 we can find a good guy ready to invest some k€ or k$ on it!
It would be also very interesting to set up an experiment to test your idea for a low power warp drive! Is someone already trying to do it?
I wish you all the best for 2012! Buon Anno Nuovo!!
Angelo & Famiglia