UK-based nuclear start-up Applied Fusion Systems has started the production of an ion thruster, which is capable of propelling a small nuclear fusion reactor of a rocket to launch a spacecraft into space.

The company has already tested specialist ion thrusters that have been developed to work with latest nuclear fusion breakthroughs for deep space and interplanetary travel.

A variation of the ion thruster, known as Nuclear Enhanced Air-breathing Rockets (NEAR), is expected to operate in high atmospheric conditions.

The company has initiated the process of filing a patent for NEAR technology.

“Fusion is the only candidate we have, it’s what the stars are doing, what the universe is telling us to do as the right way to create energy.”

Applied Fusion CEO, Richard Dinan said: “We have always followed the stars for direction. It’s about time we learned to emulate them. We, humanity, are burning things, it’s got to stop. That is literally how we power cities at the moment. It’s very inefficient, it’s very dirty and it’s not doing our atmosphere any good.

“Fusion is the only candidate we have, it’s what the stars are doing, what the universe is telling us to do as the right way to create energy.

“It’s not a question of do you think it’s coming or not? It is coming, for sure. It is humanity’s only shot at interstellar space travel in the near future.”

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Ion thrusters, which uses plasma propellant accelerated to extremely high speeds using a strong electromagnetic field, are already used for manoeuvring satellites.

According to Applied Fusion, interstellar space travel will only be possible if the transition from solid and liquid combustion rocket engines is achieved.