There are a couple of different ways humans currently propel spacecraft, and a few near-future technologies. Somewhere in the future may also lie FTL technologies, too. As I understand it, the list of futuristic STL propulsion methods that are at least plausible are as follows:

  • Ion acceleration—would this actually be feasible for something the size of a sci-fi starship?
  • Nuclear power—would it be better to use fission/fusion to heat a reaction mass, or to just detonate the nuclear material behind the starship?
  • Antimatter—are there any hypotheses on how we'd synthesize enough antimatter for space travel?
  • Kugelblitz
  • Laser + solar sail

And our list of plausible FTL methods contains only:

  • Alcubierre warp drive
  • Wormholes

First: are there any plausible STL or FTL methods I've missed? Second: would an alien civilization propel their starships using these methods, or should we expect them to have come up with something completely different?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but trying to guess whatever FTL method aliens use to propel their starships is nigh impossible and at most an opinion based game (VTCing as such). $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 31 '16 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify. For the sake of clarity, what is VTC? I know of too many acronyms shared across too many fields and which mean entirely different things. Confusion, confusion. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 31 '16 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android Vote to Close/Voting to Close $\endgroup$ – Aify Aug 31 '16 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify Clarification received & much appreciated. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 31 '16 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ A much better-organised source than asking here can be found at Atomic Rockets. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Aug 31 '16 at 6:35

To your list of propulsion technologies can be added: --

STL Propulsion

Plasma propulsion

Solar Electric

Nuclear Electric

Fusion rockets

Nuclear pulse propulsion

Pellet stream propulsion

Bussard ramjets (they don't work, but someone will be bound to mention it)

Augmented ramjet

Beamed power (this includes laser sails)

FTL Propulsion

Krashnikov tubes

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ What is an augmented ramjet? $\endgroup$ – Kronimiciad Sep 1 '16 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ Basically it's a Bussard ramjet, but fuel is scattered along the trajectory the starship is going to take. More information can be found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bussard_ramjet $\endgroup$ – a4android Sep 1 '16 at 7:15

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