6 thoughts on “A Nuclear-Thermal Rocket

  1. Godzilla

    Well it makes more sense than investing in the SLS. Both nuclear thermal and nuclear electric need more love really.

    1. Edward Wright

      Well it makes more sense than investing in the SLS.

      Only if NASA builds something like Nautilus X to put it on.

      Otherwise, it will just sit on the shelf. I can’t imagine any commercial outfit working through all the red type needed to launch a nuclear rocket engine.

      In fact, it’s questionable if the government itself could do that. I discussed that question with some engineers at JSC, and we all came to the conclusion that the best hope for nuclear rocket engines is finding uranium on the Moon.

  2. Thomas Matula

    I agree. Chemcial rockets are just too limited to open the Solar System to economic development.

  3. ken anthony

    I’m actually against it. Not because it wouldn’t be a useful technology, but because of who would use it and why. It’s just more govt. “guns for me but not for thee.”

    If free people develop the technology for private or public use, that would be different. But out govt. doing it would just be for subjugation.

    Engines are not the problem. What we have now are more than sufficient.

    Funding is the problem, but not such a big problem; it may be overcome soon. One light bulb in the right place and the dam will burst.

  4. Paul Milenkovic

    Nuclear thermal?

    One of the bennies of hanging around the “U” is hearing from people who know a lot about many subjects. Such as space nuclear power and nuclear propulsion. The “U” isn’t all Cultural Grievance Studies as many think.

    The story is that the U.S. put “all its eggs” into the basket of nuclear isotope power systems whereas for historical and tech reasons, the Rooskies have much more experience with space-borne reactors. RTG’s (radioactive-isotope thermal generators) in some ways are a whole lot more “space scientist proof” than reactors. But radioactive decay (the weak nuclear force?) is a whole lot less energetic than nuclear fission (the strong nuclear force?), and the plutonium isotope needed is in short supply and we have to prostrate ourselves in supplication and kiss Mr. Putin’s ring to get any more.

    The suggestion was made by our resident scholar at the “U” on this topic is that the U.S. ought to, might have to, make the transition from RTGs to proper reactors, which I believe would be fueled with HEU (highly enriched uranium), which I told there is a lot of (in the U.S.). Those reactors might start out small and low power like the RTGs, maybe relying on the same thermoelectric generation method, only the reactors will have control rods to worry about whereas the RTGs just kind of set there.

    But if the U.S. could get a space reactor program going, wasn’t there something that President G W Bush announced but didn’t go anywhere, you could meet the needs of space power where solar cells won’t do, and as you get into bigger reactor sizes and into Stirling or Brayton engines instead of the thermo-electric effect, you get into power levels where you can do all kinds of interesting propulsion short of some “big engineering” 1960’s NERVA/RIFT type of nuclear thermal.

    1. Godzilla

      That W announcement would be Project Prometheus and Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter. Prometheus was canceled in Bush’s second term.

      Bush the Elder pushed Project Timberwind nuclear propulsion which also ended up being canceled when the space based SDI components got the axe.

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