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NASA begin to develop nuclear rocket engine - VIDEO PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 07 February 2015 12:27

According to forecasts, the 30th year of this century, NASA will make a manned mission to Mars (with the landing of the crew on the surface or not). And the agency specialists back to the question about the use of nuclear fission energy in power plants of the future missiles.

According to a report from Dr. Michael Houts Space Center. J. Marshall, NASA is considering developing nuclear rocket engines for Solar System Research.


In the report it was a nuclear-thermal (not to be confused with fusion) rocket engine (YATRD), in which the reaction mass (propellant, in this case, hydrogen) is supplied to the camera with a nuclear reactor, there is heated to very high temperatures and in the form of hot plasma is ejected through a nozzle, creating a jet thrust.

According to experts, under the same conditions, the initial mass of the rocket with YATRD will be less than half with the engines on chemical fuel. Specific impulse of a rocket with YATRD be approximately 800-1000 with (in chemical fuel rockets "oxygen + hydrogen" MI is about 400-500 s). Scientists believe that the use of YATRD can fly to Mars in half the time, and the implementation of such a flight will be as many times cheaper.

Research in the field of nuclear energy in space research intensively conducted in the 60's and 70's in the US and the USSR. However, when in the mid-80s plans manned missions to Mars have been relegated to an indefinite period, work on creating the NRE were stopped. And until now, the only way to display the ships and cargo into space rocket engines remain on chemical fuel.

By way of fission energy, NRE be divided into three types:

Nuclear pulse motor

Perhaps the most primitive type. With this method stern of the ship is equipped with a special ablation shield behind which at certain intervals each other produced the atomic bomb. Decay products while pushing the ship forward. This type of engine was considered, in particular for the American project starship "Orion".

Nuclear thermal rocket engine, YATRD

This type is based on the direct heating of the reaction mass (the working fluid) in the area of nuclear reaction. On the use of nuclear fuel divided solid phase, liquid phase and gas phase. Specific impulse of the engine can reach 1000-1200 with.

Nuclear electric rocket engine, YAERD

In this type of nuclear reactor used to generate electricity (as in nuclear submarines and icebreakers), which is then used for heating and acceleration of the reaction mass in the electric propulsion (ion, plasma, etc.). Specific impulse YAERD can make about 3000 when the ion accelerators and up to 30 000 s with plasma.

The presentation of Dr. Houts were presented possible design space ships and affected crew protection against neutron radiation. According to a report from one kilogram of Uranium-235, you can get 200 kilowatts of power for 13 years. In other words, the effectiveness of such fuel is 45 grams per 1 GVthch. Also be able to save on the amount of the reaction mass. Due to higher specific impulse YATRD spend twice as effective working body.

At this time, Dr. Houts and his colleagues examined the characteristics of various types of nuclear fuel in order to find the most suitable sample time and performance. The tests will be carried out until mid-2015. The results of these studies can be the basis for future developments and possible use of innovative technologies for missions to Mars and other research programs in the solar system.

The Current Situation nuclear rocket engines have never been used in a real spacecraft. There were only experimental engines in the United States (NERVA) and in the Soviet Union (RD-0410).


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