The Concept

The Orion is a sub-orbital electric aircraft equipped with an air-breathing magneto-plasma jet propulsion engine that could go from the tarmac to an altitude of 80 000 feet and cruise at about 500 mph (800 km/h).

It would bring passengers to the edge of black space with stunning views from its ultra-wide panoramic windows. Its new plasma pulse detonation engine could become the standard of this nascent industry.

The Background

It’s obvious that sub-orbital jets will become in demand as Earth’s population and wealth continues to progress. There’s already a lot of demand for jets capable of reaching this kind of altitude, but one major barrier has been the engine’s performance and overall costs. The Orion concept is all about introducing a new type of propulsion (plasma jet) and seeing how it could benefit various industries.

How It Works

The Orion would take off from a conventional airport runway using a multi-array of 1,000 magneto-plasma flux compression thrusters, having each a jet focused nozzle with a 2-inch diameter and a unit thrust of 2.25 lbf (10 N). (Note that this layout of thrusters is not shown in the image, we will update it in the next design cycle).

The electric 3,2 MW powerpack system would be composed of four 800 kW new-generation aircraft fuel cell systems with a power density of 2.2 lb/kW (1kg/kW).

The next generation of supersonic and hypersonic ‘Orions’ could use compact plasma fusion reactors. These power packs would generate between 50-100 MW and would  become the most environmentally friendly power units on the planet.

At sea level, the exhaust speed of the thrusters would be in the range of 3,300 ft/s (1,000 m/s). At higher altitudes, the plasma exhaust speed would reach values of 5-50 km/s. So the final effect is similar to a rocket nozzle. The core of this idea lies in a new ignition method for high-thrust plasma engines. (See video)

What It’s Used For

The Orion would be developed to carry at least thirty people anywhere in sub-orbital space to view the stars or carry out scientific research experiments. Future supersonic and hypersonic derivatives with more distributed trailing-edge plasma propulsion could even be used as single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicles or aerospace planes as the magneto-plasma thrusters can be fed by gases like argon, and thus they would also operate in deep space.

The Collaborators

The new plasma jet engine concept was invented by IB Goeksel Electrofluidsystems and published in the Journal of Physics on 21 April 2017. The first breakthrough was announced on 13 December 2015. (See press release) If you want to learn more about their inventions, please contact Berkant Goeksel and Igor Mashek.

The Designer

The Orion concept was developed in collaboration with Ashish Thulkar, an Industrial Designer from Bangalore, India. Ashish graduated with a master’s degree in design from the Indian Institute of Science in 2014. He currently works as a freelance vehicle designer in India. He also created the Drone Tower concept and the Tridika people mover.