Debunking Pulse Detonation Engines – Yes, No, Maybe

Previous posting in this Debunking Series.

In this post we will look at the last three types of engines. Can these engine technologies be debunked?

Start with the boring stuff. Nuclear/plasma engines. For more information look up Franklin Chang-Diaz’s Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). Real. Cannot be debunked.

Now for the more interesting stuff. The second is Pulse Detonation Engines (PDE). This type of engine uses detonation waves to combust fuel and oxidizer mixture. “The engine is pulsed because the mixture must be renewed in the combustion chamber between each detonation wave initiated by an ignition source.” Theoretically this type of engine is capable of speeds from subsonic to Mach 5.

Here is an UT Arlington Feb 2008 YouTube video that shows how elegantly simple, a workable engineering concept is. According to the posting this engine was built and tested in 2005.

Here is a link to Mojave Skies blog posting which shows photographs of an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) subsonic pulsed detonation engine trials (about May 2008), made from off-the-shelf automotive parts. Impressive!

Some history regarding the Mojave Skies blog posting. Scaled Composites is led by Burt Rutan, whose team won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004. Scaled Composites is now owned by Northrup Grumman a defense contractor. What a small world. Everyone is interconnected to everyone else.

What about supersonic trials?

Here is a link to Military, Aviation & Space forum where the jet plumes appeared to be pulsed. The date of this posting is Feb 2008, while the AFRL’s press release is dated May 2008. Here is the AboveTopSecret’s link to a Jun 2008 discussion about what appears to be PDE aircrafts in action. The writers appear to be experienced and leaning toward the PDE aircrafts in the video being real.

My guess is that conventional fuel pulse detonation engines are a reality in experimental supersonic aircrafts, and that the May 2008 AFRL’s press release is about making PDEs cheaper.  These engines are real and cannot be debunked.

Now for the third type of engine technology, atomic bomb or nuclear pulse engines. It is quite obvious from the Medusa design that the nuclear energy released by such a device that is used to propel this starship is only 1/6th of the useful energy. Note, useful energy is less than total energy released. Therefore this is an inefficient design.

Further, as the Wikipedia article on nuclear pulse engines points out, there is the Partial Test Ban Treaty that makes such engines illegal. Debunked.

Therefore, nuclear or atomic bomb pulsed engines are debunked, and people who support such ideas are out of touch with reality. Let me quote Billy Currington “God is great, beer is good, people are crazy”.


Benjamin T Solomon is the author & principal investigator of the 12-year study into the theoretical & technological feasibility of gravitation modification, titled An Introduction to Gravity Modification, to achieve interstellar travel in our lifetimes. For more information visit iSETI LLC, Interstellar Space Exploration Technology Initiative.

Solomon is inviting all serious participants to his LinkedIn Group Interstellar Travel & Gravity Modification.


About Benjamin Solomon
Ben Solomon is a Committee Member of the Nuclear and Future Flight Propulsion Technical Committee, American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA), and author of An Introduction to Gravity Modification and Super Physics for Super Technologies: Replacing Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger & Einstein (with Kindle Version)

One Response to Debunking Pulse Detonation Engines – Yes, No, Maybe

  1. Pingback: The Kline Directive: Economic Viability « iSETI

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