Nuclear fusion propulsion technology has the potential to transform space travel in terms of speed and fuel consumption. The same processes that power the Sun may cut travel times to Mars in half, or make a trip to Saturn and its moons take only two years instead of eight.

It’s quite intriguing, but not everyone believes it will work, the technology requires extremely high temperatures and pressures to perform. Pulsar Fusion in Bletchley, UK, is currently building the largest ever fusion rocket engine to assist prove the technology’s practicality.

The 8-meter-long (26-foot-long) chamber is set to begin shooting in 2027. It’s not easy to replicate the Sun inside a rocket, as you might assume. At the center of nuclear fusion propulsion is an ultra-hot plasma locked inside an electromagnetic field, and scientists are continuing to figure out how to do this in a stable and safe way.

Machine intelligence could make it easier to map this box of erratic weather. Pulsar Fusion has collaborated with Princeton Satellite Systems in the United States to employ supercomputer techniques to better forecast how the plasma would behave and how it can be controlled more precisely.

If scientists can get everything to work properly, temperatures in the chamber will reach several hundred million degrees, making it hotter than the Sun. The excess energy released might propel a rocket to speeds of up to 500,000 miles (804,672 kilometres) per hour.

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