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Nuclear Space Flight

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Nuclear Space Flight

Old 12th Jan 2021, 16:22
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Nuclear Space Flight

I thought the age of launching radioactive power sources into space had died - even just for generation as with RTGs, let alone propulsion, however in this the government is following the Americans....

The American research pumping nukes out the back was Project Orion. Reactor based propulsion was covered under the NERVA project.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projec...ear_propulsion)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NERVA

https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/...travel-to-mars

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/r...ce-exploration

Rolls-Royce and UK Space Agency launch first ever study into nuclear-powered space exploration
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Old 12th Jan 2021, 18:05
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Originally Posted by ORAC View Post
......

Rolls-Royce and UK Space Agency launch first ever study into nuclear-powered space exploration
Development of the Soviet RD-0410 started in 1965 and its reactor was ground-tested in 1978. In parallel, other elements of the engine were developed and tested in the "cold" regime (w/o the reactor up and running) in 1977.

RD-0410 - Wikipedia

RD-0410 (astronautix.com)

A little bit more text is available in Russian: РД-0410 — Википедия (wikipedia.org)

Конструкторское Бюро Химавтоматики - Научно-технический комплекс (kbkha.ru)
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Old 12th Jan 2021, 19:04
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I remember reading about ion drives for space ships in the Meccano magazine many moons ago.
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Old 12th Jan 2021, 19:43
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The guys on project ??????????? were in an underground control centre for launch.
They were told that in case of a launch failure and nuclear release they would be
sealed in until rescue was possible.
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Old 12th Jan 2021, 21:06
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Wasn't there an accident a year or two ago during a test firing of a Russian nuclear rocket motor?
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Old 12th Jan 2021, 21:18
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This
from Scott Manley covers this. He has also covered the incident mentioned by VP above.


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Old 12th Jan 2021, 23:53
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Having a hopper full of atomic bombs you'd think would be the stuff of BENO or DANDY but a lot of thought went into making large bangs behind a shield - which had to be buffered with huge springs! Daft? Well, look at the names that gave it thought.

I suppose the issue is converting the power into thrust. A stream of particles would be as nothing compared to a series of blows from Thor's hammer.

Ewwww . . . imagine the crew waiting for the next bang - their fists clenched as tight as their teeth and their eyes lost behind their bulging cheeks.
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Old 13th Jan 2021, 00:08
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the stuff of BENO or DANDY
Seriously off topic but... what a great series of waypoints... DANDY BEANO BEEZR. In the NG approaches to the Bay Area they have various themes... all the ones to the north are wine related, while to the south there is a series named after hi-tech companies.

As far as the original topic goes, I think it's still the only way to power deep-space probes, Pu powered batteries. I also recently read something (on IFLScience I think) about using nuclear waste for ultra-long duration low power batteries. Forget the details.
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Old 13th Jan 2021, 01:01
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There is still a pretty big carrot for something like NERVA for deep space missions. The maximum achievable specific impulse for rocket fuel is limited by the molecular weight of the exhaust - for chemical rockets the best you can do is O2 and H2, with the exhaust as water - molecular weight of ~18. NERVA exhaust was pure hydrogen - molecular weight ~2 - so much better specific impulse than H2/O2. The down side of course is that you need a nuclear reactor and all that goes with it.
I don't think anyone envisioned NERVA for launches to space - rather it would be sent to orbit with conventional chemical boosters, only activated once in orbit. One advantage of that is that the nuclear fuel is not highly radioactive until after the reactor starts running - so if there was a catastrophic accident during launch and the nuclear fuel released, it wouldn't be a huge release of radioactive material.
Of course, ion propulsion has extremely high specific impulse - but so far no one has figured out how to make one that produces more than a few ounces of thrust (although ion propulsion is being used for 'station keeping' thrusters on a few in-service satellites).
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Old 13th Jan 2021, 05:29
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I wonder which of our near neighbours will be stuck with cleaning up that mess. Taking radioactivity to space has to be one of the most toxic decisions ever made, in every sense of the word.

If the near neighbours had left something equally toxic behind, during one of their frequent visits, we may become an ancient civilisation.

Foil hats at the ready for a latent virus?

IG
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Old 13th Jan 2021, 07:32
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Originally Posted by Imagegear View Post
I wonder which of our near neighbours will be stuck with cleaning up that mess. Taking radioactivity to space has to be one of the most toxic decisions ever made, in every sense of the word.

If the near neighbours had left something equally toxic behind, during one of their frequent visits, we may become an ancient civilisation.

Foil hats at the ready for a latent virus?

IG

Ever had a look at what's going on in the sun, or any other star for that matter?

They are all nuclear reactors, albeit fusion reactors, rather than fission reactors.
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Old 13th Jan 2021, 10:12
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There's always the world's first nuclear rocket -



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Old 13th Jan 2021, 10:26
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Originally Posted by tdracer View Post
Of course, ion propulsion has extremely high specific impulse - but so far no one has figured out how to make one that produces more than a few ounces of thrust (although ion propulsion is being used for 'station keeping' thrusters on a few in-service satellites).
Not just that, but orbit raising too. It takes a while longer but the operators are happy with the trade off between in orbit life and a slow start to revenue operation. Chemical propulsion is starting to become the exception.
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Old 13th Jan 2021, 21:40
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Would it legally be permitted to spill manmade nuclear materials and waste in space? I thought there is a space treaty? There might be the odd nuclear battery powered military satellite or rare deep space research satellite but this looks like a new commercial minded space exploitation drive coming up. No limits for anything? In Antarctica you have to take back all your waste. And you couldn't mine or similar or spill anything.

Last edited by Less Hair; 13th Jan 2021 at 22:10.
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Old 14th Jan 2021, 13:47
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Originally Posted by Loose rivets View Post
Having a hopper full of atomic bombs you'd think would be the stuff of BENO or DANDY but a lot of thought went into making large bangs behind a shield - which had to be buffered with huge springs! Daft? Well, look at the names that gave it thought.

I suppose the issue is converting the power into thrust. A stream of particles would be as nothing compared to a series of blows from Thor's hammer.

Ewwww . . . imagine the crew waiting for the next bang - their fists clenched as tight as their teeth and their eyes lost behind their bulging cheeks.
I remember reading a sci-fi story based on craft like that. A bunch were launched into orbit in response to an attack from Russia(?). I remember it as well described and entertaining. I have no idea of title or author, I don't suppose anyone else knows this book?
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Old 14th Jan 2021, 17:08
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Originally Posted by double_barrel View Post
I remember reading a sci-fi story based on craft like that. A bunch were launched into orbit in response to an attack from Russia(?). I remember it as well described and entertaining. I have no idea of title or author, I don't suppose anyone else knows this book?
Could it have been Footfall by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle? They used the Orion launch concept in the story but IIRC the bad guys were aliens not Russians.
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Old 14th Jan 2021, 18:19
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What killed the Orion concept was a calculation that, for every launch, 10 extra people on Earth would get die from cancer, due to the radiation released into the atmosphere.
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Old 15th Jan 2021, 06:39
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Originally Posted by awd2000 View Post
Could it have been Footfall by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle? They used the Orion launch concept in the story but IIRC the bad guys were aliens not Russians.
No, it was definitely earlier than that. For some reason it made a real impact on me, but I lost my large SciFi collection during one of my many moves and have never heard of the story since. It features a sort of rapid response team who dash to a fleet of nuclear bomb-powered ship in response to an imminent attack. They then spend time in orbit blasting around and blasting incoming warheads. Sounds juvenile, but the engineering and systems were well described and it worked for me as a kid!


I found this but I don't see it there. Maybe it was a short story - it's beginning to bug me now!

Last edited by double_barrel; 15th Jan 2021 at 07:01.
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Old 15th Jan 2021, 09:32
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Originally Posted by Less Hair View Post
Would it legally be permitted to spill manmade nuclear materials and waste in space? I thought there is a space treaty? There might be the odd nuclear battery powered military satellite or rare deep space research satellite but this looks like a new commercial minded space exploitation drive coming up. No limits for anything? In Antarctica you have to take back all your waste. And you couldn't mine or similar or spill anything.
The space exploration industry is too young to have many limitations. I think it will come with time. At some point, something will happen that will cause a public outcry and after that, the first serious restrictions will be introduced. And the private space business does not exist at all. All these developments can then be used for something on Earth and give us benefit. But I understand your concerns about the nuclear engine.
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Old 16th Jan 2021, 09:41
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The private space business does exist. We see billionaires doing their private space programs all over the place. Not ballistic gliders but manned mars flights! Passing by all apollo style government programs and creating technology marvels like rockets that can flip and return to be refueled.

However they do it for a specific reason I don't understand yet. It's for business and certainly not love of space travel or other marketing phrases. They seem to intend to seriously mine stuff on other stars. This is why these rockets are so big and made to return. I wonder can they just mine and exploit other stars? Can they nuke space on the way doing it? Collateral damage in the name of what? Just wait for the first nuclear rocket to blow up on takeoff.


From the outer space treaty:
  • the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
  • outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
  • outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
  • States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner;
  • the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
  • astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
  • States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities;
  • States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and
  • States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.


Outer space treaty:
https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwo...acetreaty.html
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