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Spacecraft propulsion

There are many different ways to accelerate spacecraft. Below is a summary of some of the more popular, proven technologies, followed by increasingly speculative methods.

Propulsion methods
MethodSpecific Impulse (seconds)Thrust (Newtons)Duration
Conventional propulsion methods
Solid rocket100-400103- 107minutes
Hybrid rocket150-420minutes
Monopropellant rocket100-3000.1-100millliseconds - minutes
Momentum wheel (attitude control only)n/a0.001-100indefinite
Bipropellant rocket100-4000.1-107minutes
Tripropellant rocket250-450minutes
Dual mode propulsion rocket
Air-augmented rocket500-600seconds-minutes
Liquid air cycle engine450seconds-minutes
Resistojet rocket 200-60010-2-10minutes
Arcjet rocket400-120010-2-10minutes
Hall effect thruster (HET)800-500010-3-10months
Ion thruster1500-800010-3-10months
FEEP (Field Emission Electric Propulsion)10000-1300010-6-10-3weeks
Magnetoplasmadynamic thruster (MPD)2000-10000100weeks
Pulsed plasma thruster (PPT)
Pulsed inductive thruster (PIT)500020months
Variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR)1000-3000040-1200days - months
Nuclear thermal rocket900105minutes
Nuclear electric rocketAs electric propulsion method used
Solar sailsN/A9 per km2 (at 1 AU)Indefinite
Mass driversN/AIndefiniteseconds
Tether propulsionN/A1-1012minutes
Technologies requiring more engineering development
Magnetic sailsN/AIndefiniteIndefinite
Mini-magnetospheric plasma propulsionN/AIndefiniteIndefinite
Gaseous fission reactor1000-2000103-106
Nuclear pulse propulsion (Orion drive)2000-100,000109-1012 (not a misprint)half hour
Antimatter catalyzed nuclear pulse propulsion2000-40,000days-weeks
Nuclear salt-water rocket10,000103-107half hour
Beam-powered propulsionAs propulsion method powered by beam
Nuclear photonic rocket5x1061-105years
Biefeld-Brown effectN/A0.01-1 (currently)weeks, probably months
Significantly beyond current engineering
Fusion rocket
Bussard ramjet
Antimatter rocket
Requires new principles of physics
Alcubierre drive (Warp drive)Not Applicable
Time machines

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