Nuclear rockets are on the way

Retro

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How does travelling to Mars in just 45 days instead of 9 months sound? Here are the latest developments in nuclear propulsion. Now, we just need a breakthrough for the faster than light warp drive and we're sorted. And no, it's not "just science fiction", as the theory actually works. Making one is another matter at the moment, however, but hey, one step at a time.

The coming decades of space exploration will see astronauts return to the Moon, the first crewed missions to Mars, and robotic missions to the outer Solar System (among other things). These missions will leverage innovative technologies that allow faster transits, long-duration stays, and sustainable living far from Earth. To this end, NASA and other space agencies are investigating nuclear applications, especially where energy and propulsion are concerned. Many of these proposals have been on the books since the early space age and have been thoroughly validated.

Orion_NTP.jpg


 

Crims

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I lol'd at the 'just invent a propulsion system that defies Einstein's physics' bit. Sounds interesting - I've been holding off from looking into details about this particular rocket but it looks like it can only be beneficial for us.
 

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I lol'd at the 'just invent a propulsion system that defies Einstein's physics' bit.
Seriously, that hypothetical Alcubierre drive doesn't defy the laws of physics, that's just the point, since a warp bubble is actually allowed by General Relativity.

What moves FTL here is the folding of space surrounding the space ship, not the ship itself and the space that the ship inhabits is still flat, so no awkward time dilation effects, either. Hence, those warp drives depicted in Star Trek have an actual foundation in science and are not just hot air. I was very pleasantly surprised when I found this out in the last few years.
 

Crims

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Seriously, that hypothetical Alcubierre drive doesn't defy the laws of physics, that's just the point, since a warp bubble is actually allowed by General Relativity.

What moves FTL here is the folding of space surrounding the space ship, not the ship itself and the space that the ship inhabits is still flat, so no awkward time dilation effects, either. Hence, those warp drives depicted in Star Trek have an actual foundation in science and are not just hot air. I was very pleasantly surprised when I found this out in the last few years.
I remember reading about this, and to the best of my knowhow there's been no stable way to create that. It might be doable with fusion and a design that is more torus shaped though.
 

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Oh yes, the technical challenges are enormous (especially the gargantuan energy requirements, in the order of a star) and for now there is no solution. Alas, I don't expect to see a working warp drive in my lifetime.
 

markransome

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Nuclear seems to be the only feasible and realistic way at the moment with our current technology, it's bound to happen eventually until we find other answers to other technologies such as "Anti-matter" which could be a future possibility! :eek:
 

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@markransome You know, an anti-matter engine like on Star Trek, is actually scientifically feasible, if currently impossible to engineer due to massive challenges. Of course, it won't take us past light speed, unless we use a warp drive, which, incredibly, is also not forbidden by the science. The Alcubierre drive is the real life scientific speculative proposal for a functional warp drive. Mankind unfortunately isn't gonna create one anytime soon, but never say never.


 

Tiffany

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If we can harness a nuclear propulsion system in a car then it would seem possible we could pull this off in a nuclear rocket?

I had to look this up:

 

markransome

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When I talk about a nuclear rocket as above I'm talking about nuclear fission not fusion. They do work, they started messing around with them in the 50's and as I understand it is this what NASA and DARPA will be testing. I think the main problems earlier were safety (public concern!) and weight, but with today's engineering advances why not?

As far as anti-matter, yes, it is scientifically possible, the main problem at the moment as I understand it is how to store anti-matter! o_O
 

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You're thinking of Project Orion. I saw a fascinating documentary on that some time ago. Imagine setting off nuclear bombs one after the other to generate lift?! They were blown up against a "pusher" plate, which had to last long enough to get the rocket into orbit and the system actually worked quite well. Thing is, all that fallout and general safety issues are what killed the project. Lots of info at the link below.

For antimatter, the main issues are creating it and then storing it. It's enormously expensive to create since we can only do so in minute amounts at a time, thus taking a very long time, costing trillions for any useful amount in the end.

Storing it is an almost insurmountable challenge, because it needs to sit in a huge containment vessel with magnetic fields trapping it in the centre to prevent it from touching the sides and annihilating. Scientists have done this with minute amounts of antimatter. Then, how do you use it after that is an unsolved problem. I believe that having enough to power a starship may also be enough to blow up the planet, or at least do severe damage, it's that potent. Nuclear bombs have nothing on this stuff! And all because of opposite electric charge. Incredible, isn't it?

Finally, the more I learn about electricity, the more wary I become of it and respect it all the more, to avoid getting bitten.

 

markransome

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You're thinking of Project Orion. I saw a fascinating documentary on that some time ago. Imagine setting off nuclear bombs one after the other to generate lift?! They were blown up against a "pusher" plate, which had to last long enough to get the rocket into orbit and the system actually worked quite well. Thing is, all that fallout and general safety issues are what killed the project. Lots of info at the link below.

I don't think I mean't that! Take a look at the following YouTube video from the US Archives:

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I think this is more along the lines. :cool:
 

Retro

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Oh, I see what you mean, it's the early version of what the article in my OP is about. Looks a bit safer than blowing up nuclear bombs against a pusher plate lol. Interesting video.

Made in 1968, note how extremely dated it looks, ie how far we've come since then. Also, I think whoever created that music, especially near the start, made a right pig's ear of it lol. Most discordant, awful thing I'd heard in a while. That grated the whole way through, lol.
 

Uncrowned

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This does seem like the next logical step. Although I do feel urged to hope we fix the whole blowing up on launch part before they are nuclear fueled.
 

markransome

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I think the current idea is to launch the rocket initially with a traditional rocket stage to get it in orbit at which point the nuclear rocket won't be active or live, this won't be activated/made live until it's safely in orbit, therefore if the rocket blows up within the atmosphere there won't be a danger of nuclear fallout.

Here is a more current video:

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Retro

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@markransome great to see that nuclear propulsion technology is still alive and being actively developed.

Wherever nuclear anything is implemented, it always gives impressive performance gains over what has gone before, so well worth dealing with the safety concerns it raises.
 

Uncrowned

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This is quite awesome to look into! 45 days to Mars would really advance the ability to put humans on Mars and perhaps a colony. It would be a lot easier to overcome a problem at the colony for 45 days than waiting months if not years for a spare part or supplies.
 
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