Donuts on Mars
Spaced Out Saturday's #2 // A company building fusion propulsion for interstellar travel, a puzzling donut-shaped rock found on Mars, & four U.S. states vie to be the "Silicon Valley of Space."
Oh, hi there my fellow Earthlings 👽️🖖
Welcome to our second edition of Spaced Out Saturday’s. This means you’re about to dive into a healthy dose of optimism and excitement about the latest developments in the mind-bending industry of space. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you can safely unsubscribe below and never be bothered with the coolest developments in space, science and technology again (though, I have no idea why you’d want to do that). But if you’re here for the ride: ignore this note, sit back, relax, and enjoy what we have on the docket today. It’s a fun one:
👀 The next Silicon Valley of space
💥 Pulsar Fusion: The company building propulsion to make humanity interstellar
🍩 Donut-shaped rock found on Mars is unexplainable
The meteoric rise of the commercial space industry has spurred corridors of cities and states across the great nation of America into action, all vying for a greater share of the pie.
U.S. governors aren’t holding back—they know the space economy is laying down its roots:
Cowboys with cash: In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law the creation of the Texas Space Commission. The bill also invested $350M in developing the state’s space industry.
Houston, we have a problem: In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill limiting the liabilities of private spaceflight companies to attract launch businesses.
May the Space Force be with you: Home to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Washington State established the Space Force Command Center to organize, train, and equip personnel to protect U.S. and allied interests in space.
Colorado Kool-Aid: Home to United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Colorado established the “Space to Create Fund,” which will provide funding to space-related startups and businesses in the state.
LA Network effects: Aerospace companies have always been drawn to Los Angeles to be close to customers and the launch community. The likes of Relativity Space, SpaceX, Hadrian, Rocket Lab, Northrup Grumman, Slingshot Aerospace, and Honeybee Robotics all call LA home.
These space cities are mixing the ingredients needed to create a vibrant community of space business and culture: a diverse ecosystem of policy and corporate stakeholders, launch infrastructure, and a rapidly growing cluster of prominent startups.
Let’s see who comes out on top.
Pulsar Fusion is an ambitious company.
They’re a UK-based propulsion business with a bunch of boundary-pushing Brits who aren't satisfied with mere terrestrial success in the fusion industry; they're charting a course to the stars.
Pulsar is building an eight-meter-long fusion chamber attempting to bring plasma to ultra-hot temperatures and create exhaust speeds fast enough for interstellar travel. The tech could reduce the travel time to Mars by half and cut the travel time to Titan, Saturn’s moon, to two years instead of ten. Fusion propulsion is inevitable, but the economics still need to be cracked.
It’s no question that nuclear fusion will be one of the main storylines of the 21st century. On a philosophical level, the idea of fusion is just too irresistible to humans—we seem to have this innate need to consume “free energy” and continuously propel ourselves into a new paradigm fuelled by our ability to harness more and more energy. Nuclear fusion is the next leap.
A quick aside about Effective Accelerationism (dubbed “e/acc”)
“E/acc” is a philosophical concept that suggests that humans should accelerate the process of growth of organisms to achieve greater and greater capture of free energy and thus more complex systems of intelligence. This philosophy is based on the idea that life emerged as a principle of a generalized 2nd law of thermodynamics, and due to this physical law, life tends to seek to capture "free energy" to increase its scope/complexity or maintain its existence. Effective accelerationism aims to follow the "will of the universe" by leaning into the thermodynamic bias towards futures with greater and smarter civilizations that are more effective at finding/extracting free energy from the universe and converting it to utility at grander and grander scales.
For the race to harness fusion here on Earth, look no further than Packy McCormick’s deep-dive on “The Fusion Race.” But in the vacuum of space, fusion tech is a different game entirely—and much closer than you may think.
To Pulsar, the future of deep space travel lies firmly with fusion propulsion in part because the conditions in space—very cold, and a near-perfect vacuum—are conducive to efficient fusion reactions. Fusion for space propulsion is arguably much simpler than fusion for electricity generation here on Earth.
“The difficulty is learning how to hold and confine the super-hot plasma within an electromagnetic field,” Pulsar CFO James Lambert explained in a statement. The plasma used for nuclear reactions behaves like a weather system—it’s incredibly hard to predict using conventional techniques.
Pulsar has already broken ground on that fusion chamber in England and is now joining forces with the New Jersey-based Princeton Satellite Systems. Together, they plan to use supercomputer simulations to gain some insight into this unpredictable plasma party. The duo is keen to work out how plasma will behave exiting a rocket engine.
For much of its 11-year history, Pulsar has mainly focused on fusion research, and only more recently have they started developing products that bring in revenue while that fusion R&D continues. They’ve built a Hall-effect electric thruster for spacecraft and a second-stage hybrid rocket engine, ultimately triggering the U.K. Space Agency to award them an undisclosed amount of funding in 2022 to develop a nuclear-fission-based propulsion system.
(3) Donuts on Mars
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover spotted a mysterious donut-shaped rock during a trip across the planet's Jezero Crater. The head-scratching discovery comes during the ongoing investigation on the Crater believed to be the site of an ancient lake and a river delta which scientists hope to provide valuable information about the possibility of ancient life on Mars.
But scientists are dumbfounded about the donut.
Some think that it's a meteorite that got its shape after blazing through the Martian atmosphere, while others say it's evidence of the roaring rivers believed to have once surged across the planet's surface.
According to Jim Rice, an assistant research scientist in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, these kinds of rocks "were brought in by floods by this big river channel, the Neretva Vallis—that’s the channel that brought all the water and the rocks and sediment in there.
🤖 AI Art of the Day
‘Till next time, Earthlings.
That’s it for today. As always, thank you so much for reading! 🧑🚀