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Questions tagged [nuclear]

Questions regarding the use of nuclear devices in space exploration, e.g. to power or propel spacecraft.

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Nuking mars for colonization

While I have seen the idea for nuking Mars’s polar ice caps to release water, the fallout from the thermonuclear blasts could plunge the planet into a nuclear winter which could stop us from ...
Austin Phillips's user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
81 views

Will the next deorbiting reactor be on a "safe disposal" trajectory, or re-enter as an uncontrolled derelict?

Kosmos 954 was a reconnaissance satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1977, powered by a nuclear reactor containing 50Kg of highly enriched uranium-235 Soviet officials … lost control over the ...
Woody's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
279 views

Is the Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy allowed to launch nuclear material?

Certain missions, like the various NASA Mars Rovers (Curiosity, Perseverance, Opportunity, etc.) contained either RTGs for power generation or RTHs for heating purposes, and these contain nuclear ...
Dragongeek's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
292 views

Is there a rocket that is publicly in the process of being certified to carry nuclear payloads to space?

As it currently stands in the US, only 1 rocket has the proper certification to carry a nuclear payload to space, and that is Atlas 5. (At least, this was my last knowledge). Atlas is nearing end of ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
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11 votes
3 answers
2k views

Could a Nuclear-Thermal turbine keep a winged craft aloft on Titan at 5000m ASL?

It's what it sounds like: Given the output of the NASA nuclear reactor (the one they're going to use for the Artemis program), and the use of an electric-motor-driven turbine system, how feasible is a ...
AnarchoEngineer's user avatar
13 votes
1 answer
4k views

How does NASA have permission to test a nuclear engine?

In this article on nasa.gov (https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-darpa-will-test-nuclear-engine-for-future-mars-missions) it mentions that NASA will test a nuclear rocket engine for future crewed ...
The Rocket fan's user avatar
-1 votes
2 answers
183 views

1 kiloton nuclear device to clear up debris and dust to expose the iron-nickel core for open-pit mining (on M-Type asteroids)?

My understanding is that initial acceleration from the blast and following solar wind will clear the area around the asteroid for spacecraft navigation (in reasonable time). A 2-3 kilometer M-type ...
user avatar
-4 votes
2 answers
226 views

Can Nuclear Pulse Propulsion (Project Orion) accelerate a 100,000 ton M-type (metallic) asteroid to a LEO? [closed]

Project Orion: specific impulse in the range of 6,000 seconds. For example – Starship Interplanetary (SpaceX): Max Fuel (after refueling at orbit) - 1,950 ton Fuel left after arriving at NEO asteroid –...
user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
2k views

Lunar nuclear power system - how can hydrogen generated on the Moon be liquefied?

In September 2020, NASA asked for proposals for a lunar nuclear power system. The 10-kW water electrolysis system can create 5-10 tons of hydrogen in a week from the Moon’s surface ice. How would you ...
TheMatrix Equation-balance's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
360 views

Can we dig for air pressure on Mars?

Digging 8km under the lowest point on Mars will get us Mount Everest conditions for air pressure. I was thinking of two ways of doing said title: Nuclear powered bulldozers working around the clock ...
David Ong's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
426 views

Solid Core Antimatter Engines: Do they have a point?

On the graph discussed in this question, I was surprised to see "antimatter" listed as one of the engine types... with a disappointing performance equal to solid-core nuclear thermal rockets....
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,874
0 votes
1 answer
368 views

Nuclear or Solar power for satellites?

For satellites do they use solar or nuclear for the main power source? I do know that they have both but I do not know which is primary. for an example: Galileo, does it use solar or nuclear?
Jackson's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
853 views

What is the relationship (if any) between NASA's Kilopower project and its request for 40 kW reactor designs?

Gizmodo's NASA Wants to Put a Nuclear Reactor on the Moon begins NASA is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory to develop a non-solar power source on the Moon by ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
0 votes
0 answers
147 views

Realistic cost of pulse units for nuclear pulse propulsion?

Nuclear pulse propulsion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) was believed to be - by it proponents - far superior to chemical propulsion. Either because max. delta v you ...
David Cage's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
325 views

How much is known about those liquid metal droplets orbiting the Earth? (e.g. sizes, composition, orbits...) Are any actually tracked?

The question Orbit Guardians - bs, right? mentions a company proposing a smallsat that will capture then give a roughly 200 m/s retrograde "kick" to liquid metal NaK alloy droplets in LEO ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
4 votes
1 answer
67 views

Temperature Differences on Satallites

Some satellites have radioisotope thermal generators. To convert thermal energy to electricity, a temperature difference is required (such as when using a thermocouple). How is a temperature ...
user314's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
70 views

Highest frequencies of EMPs in space

When a nuke detonates, an EMP at about 100 MHz followd. A pulsar on the other hand, has a comparatively low frequency, and while I know that this frequency depends on its spin and doesn't represent ...
Mat NX's user avatar
  • 237
3 votes
1 answer
281 views

Cooling the nozzle extension of a nuclear salt water rocket (NSWR)

The nuclear salt water rocket(NSWR) uses a plutonium salt (at least to my understanding) dissolved in water as its fuel. The mixture is kept stable by filling the fuel tank with boron carbide, which ...
R. Hall's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
1k views

Are nuclear thermal engine designs limited to about twice the Isp of existing chemical rocket engines? If so, why; what's the limiting factor?

Discussion below With Ultra Safe Nuclear engines and hydrogen propellant, how far to Mars could you get and still be able to return to Earth in an emergency? including a comment that suggests that the ...
uhoh's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
198 views

With Ultra Safe Nuclear engines and hydrogen propellant, how far to Mars could you get and still be able to return to Earth in an emergency?

The NPR news item (audio + transcript) Could Nuclear Power Aid In Travel To Mars? contains the following: VISHAL PATEL: If you want to go to Mars, nuclear is a smart choice. BRUMFIEL: Vishal Patel is ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
3 votes
2 answers
188 views

Are power nuclear reactors (including advanced designs) really vastly less "aggressive" in design than NTR cores?

It is my understanding that solid-core nuclear thermal rocket reactors are extremely aggressive designs that operate at the limits of materials and have an incredibly high specific thermal power. Do ...
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,874
6 votes
2 answers
294 views

Legality of nuclear debris field on the Moon?

A while ago, I asked about what happens to a nuclear engine that gets smashed into the Moon. While not conclusively answered, it's likely that the contaminated area would be of significant size. But ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
64 views

What are the nuclear energy challenges specific to the moon?

What are moon specific hurdles to a fission reactor? low gravity no atmosphere Apparently it's more difficult to shed heat in a vacuum. Are some coolants more advantageous on the moon than others? ...
Nicholas Saunders's user avatar
-2 votes
1 answer
188 views

Dispose Earth's nuclear wastes towards the sun [duplicate]

If rockets are reliable, can we throw our nuclear wastes towards the sun? The sun's gravity and it's internal energy will do the rest.
seccpur's user avatar
  • 1,175
1 vote
1 answer
112 views

Is "nuclear electrothermal" a recognized term for a specific technology?

Is the term "nuclear electrothermal" recognized as referring to a specific type of propulsion technology (specifically, the nuclear thermal rocket with heat engine and arcjet afterburner)?
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,874
2 votes
1 answer
276 views

Options for (high-thrust) RCS with Isp beyond that of chemical?

There are a number of potential options for high-performance engines in the future: nuclear pulse propulsion, NTR, gas-core NTR, nuclear electrothermal, and potentially even fusion rockets. However, ...
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,874
4 votes
2 answers
144 views

How do large thermonuclear explosions on the ground affect satellites in LEO?

High altitude nuclear explosions will completely render electronic devices on the ground useless (unless protected, with lead coating for example). How are satellites affected by such explosions? ...
Speedphoenix's user avatar
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6 votes
3 answers
2k views

Would capture of a uranium-rich asteroid open new possibilities?

It seems that energy production in space is a limiting factor. We can use photovoltaics, but they're of minimal value past Mars, and many interesting places (like the moon) have very long nights. The ...
Stephen Collings's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
614 views

Could a thermal nuclear propulsion double as a nuclear reactor?

Nuclear thermal propulsion takes hydrogen and introduces it to enriched uranium that then heats up the gas and expels it to create thrust. Could you use also use the uranium to heat up water instead ...
Brooks Nelson's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
236 views

Using recent technology, how much electrical power could a nuclear reactor launchable by a low-level heavy-lift vehicle be developed to produce?

The main purpose behind asking this question is to ascertain the potential power-to-weight ratio of reactors built using modern-derivative technology (i.e. either Generation III derivatives or ...
Grant Hartlage's user avatar
3 votes
0 answers
110 views

Can we re-fuel solid-core nuclear thermal rockets?

Most solid-core nuclear rocket designs seem to have a rather short fuel lifetime (and one that wastes most of the uranium or plutonium) due to the buildup of fission products (combined with the very ...
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,874
21 votes
3 answers
6k views

Why do nuclear rockets (e.g. NERVA) have such poor Thrust-to-Weight ratios?

Nuclear fission releases far more energy per kilogram of fuel than conventional hydrocarbon sources. However, proposed nuclear rocket engines like NERVA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NERVA), while ...
user34435's user avatar
  • 227
3 votes
1 answer
424 views

Is the BBC's explanation of nuclear thermal electric propulsion wrong?

The new BBC News item New engine tech that could get us to Mars faster says: Once Orion has been connected to the transfer vehicle, a nuclear electric rocket would be used to get the crew capsule and ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
6 votes
0 answers
284 views

Are DUMBO, TIMBERWIND, and other high-thrust NTRs realistically going to deliver on promises of very high thrust/weight?

Nuclear thermal rockets (NTRs) are notable as the most mature technology (the second-most-mature is Project Orion) to provide both high thrust and higher specific impulse than chemical rockets. But "...
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,874
4 votes
1 answer
519 views

LANTR has been proposed; why not bilateral CHEMANTR?

Normal solid-core nuclear thermal rockets use a nuclear reactor to heat gas (almost always hydrogen, since higher molecular weights cause miserable performance) and expand it through a converging-...
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,874
3 votes
3 answers
599 views

Would it be possible to send a nuclear bomb to Europa and make a hole in the ice of more than 11 km?

The idea is to carry an atomic bomb in an orbiter and throw it towards the surface, would it be plausible?
Olpas's user avatar
  • 149
0 votes
1 answer
124 views

What would be the cost of a thorium reactors at the core of a large starship? [closed]

Thorium is a high power substance that can contains large amounts of energy in a small space. How much would it cost to install and maintain one on a large starship? As well as using solar panels, ...
Tim Li's user avatar
  • 99
3 votes
1 answer
170 views

Have nuclear explosions in space produced any debris that was subsequently tracked, or did all of them completely self-vaporize?

This answer to Where in the solar system could a nuke be tested without anybody noticing? has got me wondering if nuclear explosions (nuclear tests) in space above Earth ever produced any chunks of ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
2 votes
2 answers
519 views

What is the basis of the new Russian nuclear rocket propulsion?

The New York Times' Russia Confirms Radioactive Materials Were Involved in Deadly Blast discusses the potential nuclear aspects of the recent missile test and references several time the possibility ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
2 votes
2 answers
536 views

Would a nuclear turbojet with a chemical afterburner be a suitable intermediate between a pure nuclear turbojet and a nuclear thermal rocket?

NOTE: This is not the place to question the fundamental viability of nuclear propulsion in aircraft and spacecraft. For context, in a spaceplane, the higher speeds you can attain under air-breathing ...
Grant Hartlage's user avatar
0 votes
0 answers
39 views

Have nuclear reactors been used in space [duplicate]

Have nuclear reactors ever been used in space as a way for power, instead of solar panels? If not, have any plans for one ever been made?
RoylatGnail's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
266 views

Can rocket engine like NERVA be used to get into low earth orbit or higher?

I have heard of nuclear propulsion, however I wonder that is it possible for it to launch into space, and if so, how much fuel would it need?
RoylatGnail's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
655 views

Could a "nuclear turbo-jet" be built?

Being familiar with jet engines myself, I wonder whether a similar device could be built to provide high $I_{\text{sp}}$ and high thrust in vacuum and space. Using the tried-and-true turbojet formula ...
Meatball Princess's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
455 views

Efficiency of a nuclear thermal rocket

I am trying to calculate the specific impulse and thrust of a nuclear thermal engine, given the thermal power of the reactor, the maximum working temperature and the propellant. I'm calculating the ...
Whitecold's user avatar
  • 133
2 votes
1 answer
240 views

The problem of low level nuclear waste on Mars

How is it planned to handle low level nuclear waste on Mars produced by the use of Kilowpower reactors? Nothing is mentioned in the Wikipedia article about the resulting waste or spent fuel.
朱軒德's user avatar
  • 113
9 votes
1 answer
387 views

Most recent launch of a nuclear reactor, and current barriers to launching the next one?

The question What happened to Kilopower generators? about Kilopower nuclear reactors got me thinking. Answer(s) to How many nuclear fission reactors have been launched into space? How many are still ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
7 votes
1 answer
496 views

What happened to Kilopower generators?

Why are we still using solar power for spacecraft? Would it be possible to replace the giant solar arrays and batteries on spacecraft with Kilopower generators?
Sibyl's user avatar
  • 71
1 vote
1 answer
161 views

Is there enough energy in a rocket nozzle for fission?

How much more energy does the rocket exhaust atom have to have to be before fission can occur to create more thrust? Which exhaust byproduct atom would be the easiest to split? I understand in ...
Muze's user avatar
  • 1
2 votes
1 answer
163 views

Bombing the Moon: how much debris would there be in stable orbit?

If someone had actually nuked the Moon (e.g. here or Bombing Moon and Mars: What would it look like? ), what's the probability of some debris reaching a stable orbit around the Moon? This would not ...
Everyday Astronaut's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
47 views

How much CO₂ could the wind through a tunnel within the deposit near the south pole of Mars sublimate?

Within the CO₂ deposit near the south pole of Mars, according to this article 3 subunits have been found with one having the top CO₂ layer of about 300 meters thick covered by a water ice layer with a ...
Cornelis's user avatar
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