School: SANDIA PREPARATORY
Area of Science: Astronautics
Abstract: The primary limitations of space travel at the present time are derived from the limited capacity to produce low-cost thrust with present technologies. The burning of chemical fuels, which is currently responsible for essentially all space propulsion, is highly inefficient, losing much of the energy produced to the surroundings and craft itself while only a small amount of energy ultimately propels the vehicle. Other near-term propellants are likewise inefficient. Solar and electric methods call for a constant flow of energy from a nearby star and require immense physical proportions to be effective while nuclear means are difficult to control and leave a volatile residue behind. The annihilation of antimatter, however, poses a favorable solution in its high specific impulse and low emissions-the only output appears as pure energy, which may be then recycled to other shipboard applications. The primary counter argument to the use of antimatter is the immense cost of producing sufficient volumes of antiprotons to propel a space vehicle.
To this end, a project will be conducted to demonstrate the cost of the above propulsion methods as applied to medium- to long-term missions. The model will examine the cost and trajectory of a proposed mission to Pluto as it would function by the use of both antimatter and more conventional propulsions by compiling the mission's significant factors and presenting the results in an easy-to-discern manner to expedite and promote exploration of the cosmos.
Sponsoring Teacher: Neil McBeth