(Credit: RocketStar)

RocketStar Successfully Demonstrates FireStar™ Nuclear Fusion-Enhanced Pulsed Plasma Propulsion Drive

RocketStar Inc. has announced the first successful demonstration of their nuclear fusion-enhanced pulsed plasma FireStar™ Drive. The potentially groundbreaking device upgrades the company’s base water-fueled pulsed plasma thruster by injecting particles into the drive’s exhaust plume, resulting in a fusion reaction that dramatically increases the base drive’s power output.

“This is the first productive use of nuclear fusion that doesn’t annihilate humanity,” quipped RocketStar’s CEO Chris Craddock and Chief Technology Officer Wes Fayler in a joint email to The Debrief.

Enhancing Cutting-Edge Electric Propulsion to Create FireStar™

Today, all satellites and space vehicles must ride aboard rockets to escape Earth’s gravity. But once in space, these vehicles can employ a growing list of alternative propulsion technologies to navigate in low to zero G environments. Among the most popular are electric propulsion drives that create small amounts of thrust but are significantly more fuel-efficient than conventional rockets.

This type of fuel-to-thrust ratio is particularly important for vehicles that are intended to remain in orbit for long periods of time while also retaining the ability to maneuver when needed. Electric propulsion drives are also ideally suited for missions to the outer reaches of the solar system since they can combine the power collected from the sun with a small amount of propellant to travel vast distances.

RocketStar’s Foundation drive is one such electric propulsion technology that uses plain old water as its core propellant. According to the company, the drive has been tested in space as part of NASA’s Artemis missions.

“Our FireStar™ Foundation Drive was developed for and launched on Artemis 1 in November 2022,” they told The Debrief. “The initial model was delivered to NASA for integration in 2019, with further commercial sales closed thereafter.”

Now, the company says it has created an add-on unit to its Foundation drive that employs a form of “aneutronic” nuclear fusion to dramatically increase performance without adding additional fuel.

From Napkin to Boron: The Birth of a Nuclear-Fusion Enhanced Drive

In a previous statement, Craddock described how a single conversation with Fayler, then the founder of Miles Aerospace, led to the creation and eventual successful test of a fusion-enhance electric propulsion drive.

“On a napkin at a conference in Florida, I sketched this idea out and described it to Wes Faler, the founder of Miles Space,” Craddock explained. “He was quite clever in developing both the base thruster and the fusion enhancement.”

That conversation resulted in RocketStar acquiring Miles Space and making Fayler their CTO. After that, the concept moved from a napkin to the labs of the technology innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force and the US Space Force (USSF), called AFWERX. There, the team was able to use the existing drive’s exhaust to create a nuclear fusion reaction by injecting Boron directly into the exhaust plume. Much like an afterburner injects raw fuel directly into the exhaust of a jet engine to offer short bursts of speed, the injection of Boron resulted in a dramatic increase in efficiency.

“We create protons as a by-product of our Foundation thruster that are moving fast enough to induce nuclear fusion with Boron,” the company told The Debrief. “That type of fusion creates a high-energy carbon that immediately decays into three useful alpha particles, thereby breaking up the cloud of positive charge that exists in the exhaust of all-electric thrusters.”

This means that the fusion reaction does not increase the thrust by forcing blasts of fusion radiation out the back of the thruster. Instead, the alpha particles generated simply improve the existing thruster by reducing the “space charge effect” thereby increasing the operating efficiency of the Foundation drive.

“It’s all indirect, using a very specific type of fusion to sweep away garbage,” RocketStar executives told The Debrief.

Those improved propulsion results were later confirmed in Phase 2 of the system’s development at Georgia Tech’s High Power Electric Propulsion Laboratory (HPEPL) in Atlanta, Georgia. There, the drive not only created the telltale ionizing radiation of the fusion reaction but also improved the base unit’s thrust by 50%.

“RocketStar has not just incrementally improved a propulsion system, but has taken a leap forward by applying a novel concept, creating a fusion-fission reaction in the exhaust,” said Adam Hecht, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of New Mexico, in the company’s statement. “This is an exciting time in technology development, and I am looking forward to their future innovations.”

Upcoming Flights Will Test RocketStar’s Drives in Space

In their email to The Debrief, Craddock and Fayler said that although their testing took place under AFWERX, the AFRL “did not have any role” in the drive’s development. Instead, they said, the lab “monitored the development with the idea of adoption once it’s passed prototype phase.”

Up next, the company says they have a handful of test flights on the calendar. This includes two flights scheduled for this summer and fall, followed by the maiden run of the new FireStar™ drive that should take place early next year.

“FireStar™ Foundation Drive will be integrated into a D-Orbit hosted payload for launch on SpaceX Transporter 11 & 12 in July and October this year,” company executives told The Debrief.

D-orbit echoed that enthusiasm, with Matteo Lorenzoni, Head of Sales at D-Orbit, noting that “we just integrated the thruster onto the ION Satellite Carrier, and look forward to witnessing its performance in orbit.”

After that, Craddock and Fayler told The Debrief that the FireStar™ Fusion Drive is scheduled to ride with Rogue Space Systems “in February 2025” with the express goal of capturing in-space measurements related to fuel and economy, “along with an array of performance metrics, both with and without fusion.”

“We are very excited to test FireStar for RocketStar,” said Brent Abbott, CRO at Rogue Space Systems, in the same statement, confirming the February 2025 launch aboard the company’s Barry-2 spacecraft. “We look forward to considering it for future Rogue missions.”

When The Debrief asked RocketStar what the most important takeaway from their successful demonstration of a fusion-enhanced pulsed plasma electric propulsion drive is, the company reiterated that this type of breakthrough was not incremental but a leap forward. They also believe that the first successful fusion-fission reaction in the exhaust plume of an electric drive could one day lead to dramatically reduced travel times within the solar system.

“A new way to move in space has been proven,” Craddock and Fayler explained. “Will it cut transit time to Mars and beyond? One of our visions as a company is to dramatically evolve our propulsion technology over time, ultimately resulting in transit times to Mars measured in days instead of weeks.”


 Christopher Plain is a Science Fiction and Fantasy novelist and Head Science Writer at The Debrief. Follow and connect with him on X, learn about his books at, or email him directly at