back to article Plasma drive starts with pee

The Australian National University is preparing to build a plasma drive test facility on the back of an $AU4 million funding injection (No, I’m not going to explain the headline yet). The facility, to be built at the Mount Stromolo observatory, will create a “space-ready” test-bed for a plasma drive designed at the ANU’s Space …


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  1. Bill Posters


    All the more reason for experimenting with micro-brewing in microgravity... now there is a way to reuse the by-products!

    Some of them anyway.

  2. Mark 'Brain Fart' Berry


    Methinks they will be taking the piss......

  3. Captain DaFt

    Ground Control, we're losing altitude!

    This is Ground Control; go piss in the (solar) wind!

  4. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    One disadvantage..

    The presence of urine means life forms - and if you slowly leak away (sorry) the available resources they will eventually end up dead forms..

  5. Mips

    That reminds me...

    .. of the moment in Back to the Future when Doc arrives back to the present in the now hovering Delorian and tips anything he can find into the Westinghouse fusion power unit. Oh yes, and it works.

  6. Rob Carriere

    Whole new meaning for the phrase

    Piss off.

  7. Lloyd

    Rod Boswell??????

    An anagram surely? Roswell Bod!!!!! Ahhhh, it's alien tech, quick, get my tinfoil hat!!!!!!!

  8. Jon Double Nice

    "space simulation chamber"

    I hope that most of the budget goes on glow in the dark stars.

  9. AceRimmer1980
    IT Angle

    Heart of Gold

    -en shower

  10. John 110


    Bob Shaw


    That is all

  11. AceRimmer

    Plasma drive eh?

    Whats the storage capacity of these things?

  12. Robert Ramsay

    the stuff ends up with a pH of about one? What on earth have they been drinking?

    1. Measurer

      What they are drinking is...

      Their reprocessed piss from last week (probably a cocktail (fnar) of everyones on board)

  13. Graham Jordan

    what the

    So what kind of real world (well, real space) scenarios could this lead to?

    Are we talking pro-longing the life of satellites by allowing for greater manoeuvring? Or are we saying this could lead to interstellar travelling?

    My (very limited) understanding of a plasma drive is whilst it doesn’t have the same push as propellants it can push for a dam sight longer allowing faster speeds over longer distances. That be right yes?

    1. Measurer

      Re: what the

      Yes, the mass exiting the exhaust is tiny (allowing for longer 'burns' with less propellant) but going at a much higher velocity than a chemical rocket so allowing the ion drive to continue to accelerate to a higher speed

  14. Remy Redert

    re: What the

    Well, that depends on how powerful this drive is compared to other plasma drives already out there. The fact that it can use almost anything for fuel gives it a big advantage though. If you have to choose between using water or xenon for reaction mass, the former is considerably cheaper and easier to store in bulk quantities. The only reason not to use it is because mono-atomic hydrogen and oxygen have a tendency to eat almost anything they come into contact with over time.

    I suspect this drive will mainly be used for station keeping and limited manoeuvring of stations, since it allows them to use what would otherwise be waste products. Conversely, most long range starships would probably have sufficient recycling in place that there wouldn't be any waste products to launch out the back if at all possible.

  15. mhenriday

    Could Richard Chirgwin kindly ask Professor Boswell

    what he meant by the following remark : «In the International Space Station, there’s a system that extracts water from urine, known as the ‘Russian piss-presser’. The result ends up with a pH around one – we could easily use that.» ? Does he mean by «result» - the water that has been extracted ? If, indeed, it has a pH «around one», it would seem unlikely that passengers on the space station (which is hardly «international», as the US vetoes Chinese participation) would survive imbibing it. Or is he referring to the residue that is left after the apparatus extracts the water it can from passengers' urine ?...


    1. Jerome 0

      Re: Could Richard Chirgwin kindly ask Professor Boswell

      He's referring to the by-product that's left over in the reaction. If he was referring to the water itself, the poor astronauts would have to die of dehydration just to keep the plasma drive up and running, which seems a touch harsh.

  16. The Grump

    It's bad enough here...

    but now we can piss all over the universe ? How long do we have before an alien race exterminates us for a lack of common courtesy ? "WE DON'T FLY AROUND IN YOUR TOILET - PLEASE DON'T PISS ON OUR UNIVERSE".

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