How realistic is this practical fusion timeline

According to an article in Forbes, Skunk Works, the experimental technology branch Lockheed Martin, has announced plans to build a practical fusion reactor that could be as small as a jet engine.

According to that article, and a few more I’ve seen, they hope to have an operational unit by 2017, and to be mass-producing them within a decade.

So, any chance that this design would work, and, if so, does the timeline sound realistic?

Assuming they have actually made a breakthrough in the magnetic bottle containment system and can release the heat in a controlled manner (to run a turbine) then I guess they could have a working unit by 2017…and, at least theoretically, go into production after they have proved the concept.

As the article says, if they have managed to do this it’s a pretty big achievement and it certainly could have far reaching implications if they can pull it off. The fact that Lockheed Martin is releasing this info kind of tells me that they at least THINK they can do this, as we aren’t talking about a fly by night company trying to get some backers here, but a major aero-space company with a lot of reputation to lose if they don’t have anything by vaporware on this.

Until there’s some actual data provided I’m not holding my breath.

I’m much more optimistic and even I don’t plan to hold my breath for 2 more years. :eek:


Actuallly, it does sound like they are trying to get backers.
From the OP’s link:

I have to wonder why they’re looking outside Lockheed for support.

My understanding is that no one has created a sustained fusion reaction on any scale, under any circumstances. (That God guy excepted, I guess.) The leap from a sustained fusion reaction in any form to one that’s packaged and ready to go is almost as big as the leap to that sustained reaction from… now.

I understand they’ll have an antigravity car in the same time frame. Just a few more kinks in that AG drive to iron out.

They aren’t looking for backers to develop it, they are looking for partners once it’s developed to go into production. Why? They probably don’t have the capacity to go into large scale production and distribution (as well as marketing and all the rest) on their own.

Sure, this could be vaporware hype, but the fact that LM is making the claim and setting a hard date makes me at least consider that it could be real. Guess we shall see…2 years is a pretty short time line, so either they are VERY confident that they pretty much have all of the major technical challenges solved and it’s just engineering at this point, or they were VERY foolish to release this to the public.

Do you seriously put an anti-gravity device, something we don’t even have a theory on, in the same league as a fusion power plant, something we have been literally working of for decades???

If they’re talking about selling them in a crate at Home Depot in two years, yes. May as well make them capable of time-travel as well.

That fusion is real - in stars and thermonuclear detonations - and anti-gravity and time travel are “fictional” is of little difference in this case. They are talking about sustainable packaged versions of something that has barely been achieved on a mega-laboratory scale, and only for short periods.

Here’s a page about it from Lockheed Martin’s website, rather than a second hand account from some Forbes reporter. The emphasis seems to be on reducing the size rather than on currently having a working design for a net energy gain reactor. As I understand it, they’re saying that the reduced size will speed up the development and testing cycles which, they claim, will enable them to produce a practical reactor within 5 years, So the “practical reactor within a few years” claim seems to be a prediction based on this sped up cycle rather than an announcement of some fundamental breakthrough in containment.

Except no where that I see are they saying that…that’s YOUR spin.

There are a lot of things that were studied for years, even decades when breakthroughs occurred that enabled someone to go from theoretical to practical to production. I don’t know whether this is one of those cases, but it’s kind of ridiculous of you to equate this to anti-gravity, which we don’t even have something like a working theory on how to produce even in a lab, or time travel, which is theoretically possible but which we don’t have any idea how to create, if it’s even possible, and based on your own spin about these things being in Home Depot next year. :stuck_out_tongue:

So they don’t have a working fusion reactor yet - duh - but they’re going to make it smaller to make it work better.


And they want a manufacturer standing by to start bashing them out when it’s ready in 2 years.


One of the links on that page goes to an article here:

That’s not even what the Forbes article said. Good grief, why did you even post in this thread if you weren’t going to bother even reading the fluff article?? :stuck_out_tongue:

The OP’s summary seems quite clear. And represents absolute balderdash. What more needs be said?

You are right, nothing more to see here…go ahead and move along.

To be fair, that’s not what they’re saying, at least if I’m understanding it right. What they’re saying is that, by making it smaller, they can build prototypes quicker, thus speeding up the process of repeated prototyping and testing. The hope is that this will lead more quickly to a solution to the containment problem.

A good GQ thread from closer to the announcement.

Maybe they really are close to a leap that seems unlikely to those that know the state of the science minus some unshared still proprietary knowledge. I liked one of the comments on the Forbes article “In 2 years, Mr. McGuire will either have a Nobel Prize or be totally unemployable.”

That’s all fine, but this has been lather-rinse-repeat for nearly 60 years with very little fundamental movement forward. Any article that’s jumping ahead to producible units and so forth is well into moonbeam land.

Build a sustainable fusion reactor of any kind, then build one that can generate power sustainably using any model and combination of technologies, and then start musing about optimizing it for a small, manufacturable package. Otherwise it’s like those fan efforts to design the last detail of a real starship… except, you know, for that engine thingy.

I believe fusion power is humanity’s only good option for long-term survival. But I’ve watched the disparity between the gosh-wow stuff and reality for most of my life… and it doesn’t really matter whether it’s some loopy individual inventor or an entity like LM doing the gosh-wowing.

Make it work, first, fellas.

Well it looks like we’re making progress on the fusion front. For the last 50 years, fusion was 15 years away, now we’ve reached the point where fusion is 2 years away, although it will probably stay there for the next 20 years.