At this time, space flight and exploration are restricted by the speed of chemical engines and the gravitational slingshot. The Voyager 1 travels across space at an unimaginably slow speed of about 35,000 miles per hour.
Fortunately, two ground-breaking ideas are being supported by the MASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, which will allow for a speed of one million kilometers per hour.
The ion drive and antimatter propulsion are two ideas that the NIAC is funding. There are now techniques to create ion drive engines that can produce megawatts of thrust, compared to the traditional ion drive engines’ limited capacity.
NASA-NIAC is igniting 50,000 lithium-ion thrusters using high-energy lasers. These engines will undergo testing in four months. With the aid of lasers, NASA is supplying the newly developed ion drive with 10 megawatts.
JPL is producing the parts for this new ion drive. The US military is also developing powerful high-energy lasers that can produce hundreds of megawatts of energy.
Another development is that “direct-drive” ion engines will be possible thanks to these new technology. With a testing voltage of up to 6000 volts, this direct-drive concept will simplify engine construction by getting rid of a number of electronics and modules.
Therefore, space travel has a bright future. By 2050, NASA and JPL want to have a functional engine that can travel across space at speeds of one million miles per hour.