Questions tagged [nuclear]

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

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428 views

Nuclear thermal rocket working fluid performance

After reading an announcement about NASA restarting NTR (nuclear thermal rocket) research I was wondering about how a working fluid would be chosen. For clarity, the working fluid is the gas that is ...
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Are there any designs for fusion engines with similar performance to a nuclear lightbulb?

Are there any fusion thrusters with a twr > 1 and an isp of a couple thousand seconds?
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186 views

What are the non-technical barriers to creating a practical nuclear propulsion system?

You can carve it however you want - it can be purely extra-orbital, it can be NERVA, it can be Orion. What are the specific legal and political barriers that prevent it from being implemented?
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597 views

Tritium as energy source for probes?

There's this ingenious little hack video: "How to make tritium nuclear battery at home". The idea is very simple: "tritium keychain lights" - tubes with tritium and luminophor - placed between solar ...
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1answer
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What was the result of the propellant predictions in the last chapter of “Ignition!”?

In John D. Clarke's Ignition! (1972), the author spends the last chapter making predictions about the future of liquid rocket propellants. I thought these were very interesting, but I realize the book ...
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331 views

What kinds of nuclear reactors are suitable for operations in space? (Beyond thermionic and RTG)

If we want a nuclear power plant in space with a capacity similar to that of a conventional water boiling turbine nuclear power plant on Earth today, what kinds of fundamental design changes would ...
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1answer
256 views

What “high-tech fission-powered mission” almost “killed” New Horizons?

When reading the Discover Magazine article How New Horizons Survived the 40-Year-Glitch and Made it to Pluto while writing this question I saw "...the new NASA administrator tried to kill New Horizons ...
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6answers
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Can a nuclear detonation on Moon destroy life on Earth?

If a nuclear weapon is detonated on the moon it would launch debris into space. The debris would then fall to earth like asteroids. Would this impact wipe out life on Earth? In other words, are our ...
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Why are RTGs different colors?

This is an image of the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) for Cassini: This one was for one left on the Moon: And this one is for the Multi-Mission RTG, used by Curiosity on Mars: One is ...
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214 views

Power requirements for solar electric interplanetary vehicle

I am interested in electric propulsion for manned interplanetary craft. There must be a lot of models for a craft able to travel to Mars, for instance. I am wondering what the power requirements seem ...
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What does it mean for a launcher to be 'nuclear-certified'?

This article says NASA has booked a nuclear-certified Atlas 5 for the launch of the Mars 2020 rover, and says this: currently, Atlas 5 is the only launch vehicle that holds a NASA certification ...
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1answer
630 views

Is terraforming mars with only 4 nuclear bombs/penetrators in 10 years possible as this paper says?

Abstract: "Four, 100kg fusion warheads, launched from a Mars orbiter, can throw into the air, enough dust to cover Mars' South Polar Cap, darken it, and cause it to sublime through increased solar ...
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How does the launch risk for a plutonium RTG and a uranium fission reactor compare?

I was looking at this answer that talks about how a good alternative to Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators would be fission reactors. It makes a number of good points, but in the comment thread ...
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Orion Project (NPP) Pusher Plate computer models and survivability?

Does anyone know of any modern (1990's - present) computer modeling of the Orion pusher plate and its reaction/survivability to repeated plasma impacts? Regarding the 1950s/1960s Orion Project using ...
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Is it possible to covertly put an EMP weapon into an ISS-like orbit by masquerading it as a legitimate launch?

I'm writing a sci-fi novel and I need some clarification on some technical issues. An HEMP is an high-altitude EMP. A 400km high, high-yield nuclear explosion over Kansas could "switch off" all the ...
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1answer
953 views

How much thrust can a nuclear thermal rocket provide?

Which is the range of thrust (minimum and maximum) that a nuclear thermal rocket is estimated to produce? Knowing these values, which thrust to weight ratio would be able to produce?
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Could a micrometeorite bombardment in an IMIS craft result in reactor rupture leading to the crew becoming stranded?

Apparently, I am a bit indecisive regarding an event that could possibly occur within the context of reality regarding nuclear thermal rockets, and I was thinking: is this space disaster scenario ...
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Why is comet deflection so hard (and how does a fusion rocket help)?

I just read an article arguing that we need very fast rockets for the deflection of comets, since we will probably detect them just several months before impact. So we need to hurry in order to pick ...
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How does propellant flow work in a nuclear thermal rocket?

I assume a nuclear thermal rocket with a solid core first. The principle of operation seems simple enough: Bring your propellant close to your nuclear fuel, start a reaction and wait for some heat/...
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3answers
2k views

Could a spacecraft take off from Earth using nuclear thermal rockets?

If enviromental concern was not taken into account, could you use a nuclear thermal rocket such as NERVA or Pewee to take off from Earth's surface into low Earth orbit? If not why? Is a launch ...
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2answers
2k views

Would a nuclear propelled spaceship still need a storm shelter?

Assume you have a sophisticated nuclear (thermal or whatever comes to mind) propelled spaceship for your summer vacation on Mars. Half way there Houston calls and informs you about an inbound solar ...
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What happens to a spacecraft crashing into the Moon?

When planning a new architecture for lunar missions, one always faces the potential of nuclear thermal engines. Having a much higher $I_{sp}$, they offer a much higher propellant efficiency, causing a ...
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492 views

Detecting a Nuclear powered vehicle from outer space (at least 8 AU or further out) feasible?

I sometime see this quote in forum arguments against "Klingon/Romulan-style" cloaking in video games that tries to be close as possible to real-life. It is quite difficult to ascertain where the ...
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Upper G acceleration limit for a small thorium nuclear reactor and electronics

For a small Orion nuclear pulse probe that is accelerating to 10% light speed: What would be the upper G force acceleration limit for electronics, a small thorium based nuclear reactor, pulse units ...
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737 views

Is it possible to use zinc powder as a NTR propellant?

The ISP of a propellant is important when mass is the limiting factor; however, that is not exactly the case when launching a rocket. For the first part of the flight, the density of the propellant is ...
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Nuking the Sun?

We know that according to Wikipedia on Nuclear fusion: The Sun is a main-sequence star, and thus generates its energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium. In its core, the Sun fuses ...
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Could we detect a nuclear explosion near Proxima Centauri?

How big would a nuclear explosion in open space around 1 AU from Proxima Centauri have to be for it to be detectable with current technology? Assume best-case scenarios, such as we're specifically ...
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660 views

For a hypothetical high-power nuclear spacecraft, where does the waste heat go?

It seems that all nuclear propulsion concepts extract fission energy as heat, and somehow convert a portion of that heat to energy in the desired form, such as electrical (e.g. to power an ion ...
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How could a fast powerful rover on Mars be powered electrically?

Background The rovers on Mars are slow and weak. If I am to believe what I read, MSL Curiosity only produces 1/6th of a horsepower electric effect, 125 watt. In order to perform tasks like deep ...
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338 views

What are the unique design considerations for space bound nuclear reactors (TOPAZ, SNAP 10-A), and their respective dangers?

While the US has claimed only sending one nuclear reactor (SNAP 10-A) into space, Russia has sent many. Here on earth we've adopted a Defense in Depth strategy to design for safety controls. Though, ...
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362 views

Is the waste heat (sink) system dependent on whether the energy source is nuclear or solar?

A power plant in space causes waste heat which has to be removed from the plant. The need for large heat sinks, and their mass, kind of bogs down some of the advantages of big nuclear power in space. ...
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561 views

How heavy does radiation shielding have to be for a nuclear power plant on a crewed spaceship?

How important is the mass penalty for shielding when using nuclear power on human space missions? In addition to solar and cosmic radiation, living next to a nuclear reactor large enough to support a ...
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Nuclear Explosion in Space

It is possible to detonate a nuclear bomb in space, if possible then what will happen? In Armageddon movie we watched that, after discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas is going to impact ...
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478 views

Will Roscosmos et.al attempt to revive nuclear-engine space technology violate the OST?

This article dated. 2013 writes to say After a multi-decade hiatus, both NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (which developed many of its own NTRs during the Cold War but never physically ...
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What are the economics of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion?

Can anyone breakdown the cost of developing and implementing an upper stage nuclear thermal engine? After development, what could the price be of each engine produced?
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762 views

Nuclear powered engines with LFTR technology?

According to this YouTube video which starts with a 5 minutes summary the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor is an extremely safe alternative to the current ones. Not only Thorium is abundant on Earth, ...
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Dangers of launching a nuclear thermal rocket

Nuclear thermal rockets may have great benefits for Solar system exploration. But one consideration is that the launch of a nuclear engine from Earth's surface, as the payload on a chemical rocket, ...
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1answer
643 views

Is nuclear fusion a viable means of powering spacecraft?

Today while studying about nuclear reactions, I found that we can produce a large amount of energy. So, why not introduce this energy in our space exploration rockets? It may decrease the time of ...
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732 views

Was a nuclear device detonated over Earth's Moon?

Apropos Project A119 Wikipedia writes to say The aim of the project was to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon which would help in answering some of the mysteries in planetary astronomy and ...
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3k views

Are nuclear-powered engines the way to go for space exploration?

I often think about the future of humanity and how to achieve it. Despite criticism, the USA and USSR achieved significant scientific breakthroughs, such as: putting the first man in space landing ...
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Nuclear thermal rocket specific impulse calculation uses 1 amu, is that wrong?

Following the parameters in the Wikipedia nuclear thermal rocket article, it seems to paint somewhat of a shaky world view. Consider these quotes: Current (2010) 25,000 pound-thrust reference ...
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Would it actually be feasible to drop a nuclear bomb from a satellite?

During the Cold War, one of the main reasons for space exploration was military/propaganda purposes. One of the things that the US was worried about was the prospect of a nuclear bomb being dropped ...
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Why does Curiosity use an RTG rather than solar (as Spirit and Opportunity do) for power?

Why did Curiosity choose to go with nuclear power? While solar panels have issues with Martian dust, this was a known factor before the 2004 Spirit and Opportunity mission. Why then did the 2004 ...
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868 views

Has there been any nuclear thermal rocket test program after NERVA?

Has NASA tested any nuclear thermal rocket engine after dropping the NERVA program? Is there any current ongoing mission to use nuclear power to make a rocket fly?
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909 views

Is there an alternative to nuclear reactors for high-power spacecraft?

Many of my favorite ideas for space exploration, such as large outer solar system probes, or the Mars Direct human Mars exploration proposal, require nuclear reactors to supply the high-power ...
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Did the Galileo spacecraft cause a “blotch” on Jupiter after it crashed?

There's this interesting story: Did NASA Accidentally “Nuke” Jupiter? Long story short: On September 21, 2003 Galileo is deorbited in order to prevent eventuality of contamination of Europa. It ...
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778 views

Is there any ongoing research in nuclear pulse propulsion?

Nuclear pulse propulsion seemed to be quite actively researched up until the 1990's, with a few projects that saw some rather promising results (some that could theoretically reach over 4% light speed....
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718 views

How does the launch risk posed by plutonium compare to the launch risk posed by propellants?

For outer solar system exploration, virtually the only feasible power subsystem are Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). These include plutonium, which may carry considerable risks (see ...

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