Mars has given nuclear spacecraft engines a new lease on life, with nuke ships being named as a top priority – along with electrical propulsion – in a new report that recommends what NASA should focus on in coming years. The two propulsion systems prioritized in the 468-page report by the National Research Council (NRC) – which …
Reminds me of some old microfiches at my alma mater...
The library of the Physics department of the Helsinki university of Technology used to have (or still has, haven't visited the place for decades) a collection of documents on microfiches about the NERVA. I came across them as a student while looking for something else, and wondered what they were doing there, as Finland certainly did not have a nuclear rocket programme going on. Maybe when the project was terminated, NASA wanted to ensure its results are not lost and sent copies of all unclassified documents to university libraries around the world?
Which means that if a country with no scruples about reactors in space (the Chinese, say) wanted to send a nuclear-powered ship to Mars, they wouldn't have to start the research from scratch. I for one would really like to see such true spaceship to be be built in my lifetime, no matter who does it.
LTFR reactor would minimize potential radiation issues
I don't know if they would work as well as Uranium reactors, but if a nuclear rocket could be based on the LTFR molten salt reactor, nearly all the fissile material could be Thorium, which presents a much smaller risk of radioactive contamination in the event of a catastrophic failure. This might obviate one of the major objections to nuclear rockets.
If I understand correctly, the ability of a nuclear reactor to provide the necessary energy for a long period of time with a small fuel mass means that a much larger amount of propellant (the stuff shipped out the back) could be carried instead of chemical fuel. This means that a long, slow thrust could be used instead of the present method of maximum thrust for a very short time.
"But unfortunately, as has been proven in scientific and technological debates ranging from climate change to evolution, reason often takes a back seat to entrenched beliefs and constituents' fears, interests, and ideologies."
Indeed, as has been shown many times in El Reg, which continues to spew reactionary climate change ravings -- with comments turned off, as Andrew is afraid that reason might rear its ugly head near his articles -- to please its sponsors. Not to mention the pro-SOPA garbage they tried to push on us not too long ago.
Mine's the white one with the burn marks on the sleeves.
Re: Was that...irony?
I think you probably meant sarcsasm, though people tend to use 'irony' instead as they feel it makes them sound clever.
"-- with comments turned off, as Andrew is afraid that reason might rear its ugly head near his articles --"
No-one has reason to fear that from 99% of the pompous asses who post here, my friend.
" Not to mention the pro-SOPA garbage they tried to push on us not too long ago."
Dates? Ideally, links to the articles? *Some* evidence rather than bringing up a topic you think will get the aforementioned asses on your side?
"Mine's the white one with the burn marks on the sleeves."
Advertising your untrustworthiness around naked flames doesn't speak well of your intelligence and automatically makes you less credible. But Homer Simpson likes nuclear stuff too, I suppose ...
Re: But what about world hunger
World hunger is a socioeconomic problem. Whether we faff around in space or not will make no difference to world hunger.
Although every scientific advancement drags the rest of the world kicking and screaming behind it so, actually, more space exploration please.
Indeed, most technological advances of the 20th century have been made through warfare or space exploration.
I know which I would prefer (ie. the latter! Hopefully it will give nuclear power a good name again, and we can get back to that prediction of unmetered electricity!)
I love scientistic discussements with pleasant chums
@Alister: maybe for terraforming but there alternatives to colonizing Mars. You could construct an O'Neil cylinder on the stable Lagrange points. By their design O'Neil cylinders are scalable enabling humanity to colonize space. They are easier to build and there is a technological path from our current space capabilities. It starts with a Bernal sphere which will be used to house miners and geoengineers to mine asteroids until we get enough materials to build the cylinder. Which should be used to develop and perfect environmental engineering enough that you can replicate the conditions of earth in space. Eventually you may consider colonizing other planets.
As the great man said...
Get your ass to Marzzz !
Nice to see that nuclear is receiving some attention. However NERVA, I think was seen at the time to have shortcomings that would affect scalability and continuous development. A much more elegant and effective thruster was the DUMBO reactor. Having said all that, the end result of all this new enthusiasm will very likely end up like the UK Nuclear Energy Proposals and result in endless talk and absolutely no action.
both these engines still seem to need a load of stored propellant.
Wont that run out?
In reading the previous replies I'm rather glad that I share a forum with so many rocket scientists who know a thing or three - my education about the subject has improved dramatically just by reading the responses to this one very informative article. It's so much better than having to hang out with political retards who haven't got a clue.
Thank you everyone for bringing me up to speed on such a fascinating subject. Maybe someone could advise where I can get one of these fusion engines - I have a spare De Lorean in the back garden and as I understand the current situation a nuclear powered car wouldn't be subject to road tax (but I guess the yearly MOT might be a tad expensive).
I say they are already testing a nuclear powered craft next to Yucca Dry Lake at Nevada Test Site. Check out the Google Earth pics of a newly built, isolated hanger and airstrip there.