I reviewed the source document for all of this speculation on this subject. Please do not judge it by what I say, although I may be an ignoramus in many technical details, I think the proposition is sound. If Wehner von Braun liked it, it must not have been too bad.
So, why didn't it get adopted? In order to answer that, one only has to look at a pattern of events that has taken hold of this country in the last 40 or so years. Let's list promising technologies that have been, for want of a better term, suppressed
- The Saturn V rocket was a proven technology that was scrapped after it achieved the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning safely to earth. The technology was proven, but it was deemed a waste of money by a government that proceeded to spend even more in order to accomplish less.
- Along with the Apollo program, a nuclear upper stage was developed for the Saturn, which was also scrapped. The big fear was that a successful demonstration of the technology, which was already deemed spaceworthy, would lock the government into a Mars expedition. But with the money already spent in these last 40 years, we could have gone to Mars already without having to spend anything extra than what has already been spent.
- Most likely, the nuclear Saturn upper stage would have gotten into trouble anyway because of fears of nuclear energy. Yet, a cleaner and safer brand of nuclear energy- based upon the thorium fuel cycle- was ignored. The technology was sound, but the leadership, in all of its wisdom, decided upon another course. The thorium fuel cycle proponents were asked to abandon the project. With nobody to champion the technology, it was soon forgotten about until recently.
- Cold fusion has been suppressed and is still being suppressed. There are those who think that this is pathological science, but with the track record just mentioned above, how can anyone be so sure that the government- and those who are supporting the suppression of this technology- are right?
- But cold fusion is only another method of fusion aside from hot fusion. By the way, there are more ways than just one to achieve hot fusion, but the government only interested in pursuing one way, which is known as "ITER". ITER is Latin for "the way". If ITER is the only way, it is definitely the most expensive way. The other ways to hot fusion are a lot cheaper and are being done on a much smaller scale. Nobody has been successful yet, but the odds for the smaller scaled projects to succeed appear to be just as good, or better than ITER.
- The Alaska pipeline was stalled for many years until it was built. New attempts to further develop the North Slope oil fields have been suppressed supposedly because of environmental concerns, but the horror stories predicted for the Alaska pipeline were been greatly exaggerated. History is being repeated by the current administration, which has now blocked the XL pipeline.
- Although oil may pollute, the world seems to adjust to it. If it were only oil. Energy supplies exist which could last for centuries, but these are being blocked as well. The excuse is global warming, which may or may not be related to fossil fuel use, and may or may not be happening. But if it is happening, it isn't going to happen for decades. Yet the fossil fuel suppression and its effects are happening now.
- Energy projects, such as solar and wind are being pursued, but at best, they can only supply a small fraction of the energy that is going to be needed. This is an optimistic scenario. The more pessimisstic scenario will see very little contribution to the energy mix from these technologies. They are too diffuse and require too much land and resources to exploit. They are pipe dreams that are supposed to substitute for real solutions, which keep getting suppressed.
- Environmentalists want to tear down dams, even though there are no replacements at hand for the water nor the energy that the dams supply.
Now that I've managed to get off the subject a bit, let's get back on track. The latest post is about some adjustments in my speculations.
Instead of using the nitrogen for other tasks, perhaps it can be used in the VASIMR itself. It can be used as a coolant and as a propellant.
The oxygen can still be used in the fuel cells for the collection of water while producing electricity for the VASIMR, which is supplying the thrust needed to stay in orbit. This means that a hydrogen supply needs to be taken along in order to make the water. Since there's no need for any other propellant but the nitrogen for thrust, there's no need any other storage tanks.
After reading the document again, I am not sure why so much energy is needed. The thrust needed does not take that much energy. Perhaps the collection of the gases take up a lot of energy, but if you are not compressing and liquifying it for storage, you don't need so much energy.
Part of the requirement appears to be for human needs, but this could be made into a robotic mission.
A pic from the source document-- not really, but it is a pdf that closely follows it
Also, here's a link to the inventor who created the idea in the beginning, Sterge Demetriades. As for my next post on this subject, I'm going to read a pdf file on the PHARO concept, which is similar to this.