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Russian is hoping its new nuclear rocket will help it reach the Red Planet, Mars, as well as set up a base on the moon. The rocket will likely be a Nuclear Gas Core Reactor (NGCR) fission rocket design.  (Source: RIA Novosti ?????? ?????)

Russia developed an early nuclear fission engine, the RD-0410 NTP Engine, back in the 1960s.  (Source: Dietrich Haeseler)
While the U.S. dreams of plasma, Russia looks to nuclear

With the Space Shuttles on their way to retirement the U.S. is pouring millions into developing the next generation of manned spacecraft, a return to rocket-mounted capsule designs and departure from the space-plane design of the shuttle.  The Ares I-X underwent its first test flight yesterday. 

In the near-term rockets like the Ares and its foreign competitors will likely retain a chemical booster to provide the thrust and impulse needed to propel the rocket into space.  The critical question, though is what to use once in space to provide the sustained power needed to reach distant targets like the Moon or Mars.

Some are advocating traditional chemical rockets to due to the job.  While expensive and potentially dangerous, they have the advantage of being a thoroughly proven technology.  NASA is also eying non-nuclear plasma rockets as a possible solution.

Now, news has broke that Russia may turn to a nuclear fission engine for its own Mars or Moon mission.  Anatoly Perminov, Russian rocket scientist, mechanical engineer, and acting director of the Russian Federal Space Agency announced at a meeting of the commission on the modernization of the Russian economy that the design would be finalized by 2012 and that full development would take approximately 9 years.

The project will cost approximately 17 billion rubles (over $580 million), a lot of money for the cash-strapped Russian space program.  Still, another Russian space official, Anatoly Koroteyev, president of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics and head of the Keldysh research center, says that the new propulsion system is critical to a successful Mars mission as it will provide the high degree of energy-mass efficiency needed for a fast and cost-effective trip.

He says that Russia's current technology cannot accomplish its goals -- to put a space base on the Moon and send a manned mission to the Red Planet, Mars.

While there are many nuclear rocket designs, including antimatter catalyzed nuclear pulse propulsion, Bussard ramjets, fission-fragmentation, and nuclear electric, the new engine is likely a gas core reactor rocket.  Russia has been working on this type of rocket since 1954.  It claims that the U.S., despite heavy university research into nuclear designs, has only completed 1 use of a fission reactor in space, and that it has completed 30 such uses.

The Nuclear Gas Core Reactor (NGCR) uses highly enriched uranium (U-235 or U-233) injected into a gas jet at pressures of up to 1000 atm and temperatures of up to 70000 K.  Hydrogen is used as a propellant as it provides a high specific impulse.  The fissile core is a cylindrical design and energy is delivered to the hydrogen propellant via alkali metal vapors like Li.  Due to the distance between the walls and nozzle and the fission reactions in the core, the rocket can achieve higher temperature fission and thus greater specific impulse than solid-core designs.

A key challenge will be developing the theory to full predict the behavior of and contain the fission plasma via a magnetic field.  Russia has already done a good deal of work into this topic, but many questions remain unaswered, particularly how the field will react to instability from gravity and inertial forces.


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Ion engines?
By Spivonious on 10/29/2009 9:50:13 AM , Rating: 2
I remember reading a while back about ion engines. Once the vessel is in space, couldn't these be used to propel it towards Mars?




RE: Ion engines?
By scrapsma54 on 10/29/09, Rating: -1
RE: Ion engines?
By Shining Arcanine on 10/29/2009 10:43:09 AM , Rating: 2
I think you mean that they can only accelerate a full sized space craft at 5mph^2. 5mpg is a velocity and ion engines increased velocity by providing a constant acceleration. You could easily reach half the speed of light in space if you run an ion engine for an absurdly long period of time (e.g. 13.7 billion years).


RE: Ion engines?
By Ratinator on 10/29/2009 11:26:33 AM , Rating: 2
Ummm I think your math is a little off. Considering the speed of light is just shy of 671 million mph, it shouldn't take 13.7 billion years to reach half the speed. More like about 7650 years to reach half speed of light (using a 5mph acceleration - using just straight acceleration and not taking into account anything else)


RE: Ion engines?
By AnnihilatorX on 10/29/2009 11:34:06 AM , Rating: 2
No, your maths is off as well

Assuming zero initial velocity
If acceleration is 5mp(h^2) = 5 miles per hour per hour
To reach 671 million mph, without regards to relativic effects (i.e. accerleration goes down as apparent mass goes up near to speed of light), it takes v = at^2, t = sqrt(v/a)
= sqrt(671e6 /6) = 11584 hours
That's only 482 days


RE: Ion engines?
By AnnihilatorX on 10/29/2009 11:37:09 AM , Rating: 2
Forgot to note,
Problem is, with space travel, you can always only accelerate up to half way and you have to decelerate, dramatically increasing travel time.


RE: Ion engines?
By wessty1984 on 10/29/2009 12:19:26 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, your math is off and he was correct.

Velocity (mi/hr)=Acceleration (mi/hr^2) * Time(hr)


RE: Ion engines?
By Ratinator on 10/29/2009 12:26:24 PM , Rating: 2
And he is the one who got rated up.


RE: Ion engines?
By dsumanik on 10/29/09, Rating: -1
RE: Ion engines?
By Yaron on 10/29/2009 4:26:04 PM , Rating: 2
Ja mein Reichsfuhrer!

Do you vant me to zend Herr "Ratinator" unt Herr "AnnihilatorX" to ze "showers" immediately?!


RE: Ion engines?
By Ratinator on 10/29/2009 4:45:52 PM , Rating: 1
Wow, someone's cornflakes are a darker yellow than usual.

You might want to make a comparison that has a little more relevancy to it. A period is minor.....a complete miscalculation isn't. If you don't think it is, tell that to your doctor the next time he is prescribing your medication and see how that works out for ya.

B) this isn't anandtech, this is DailyTech - oh sorry I corrected you. I bet you have really flown off the handle now.

PS: As for the gutter rat comment.....if you were any where near me you would have your block knocked off as that is my wife you are talking about.


RE: Ion engines?
By MrPoletski on 10/30/2009 6:48:08 AM , Rating: 1
woah, dummy spitt-a-thon from dsumanik.

Who bit your pillow this morning?


RE: Ion engines?
By AnnihilatorX on 10/29/2009 7:04:17 PM , Rating: 2
Arg that's elementary error sorry
I meant distance.

It does not matter much as to a slow acceleration. You eventually get there in fast enough time.

It is possible one can transverse the whole visible universe using conventional rocket engine in 30 years time frame base on a low acceleration alone, the problem is fuel really.


RE: Ion engines?
By Ratinator on 10/29/2009 12:25:24 PM , Rating: 2
Why are you squaring time. Last I checked
Velocity = Acceleration * Time.

We are trying to get to a velocity of 335 million miles per hour.
Velocity = 1/2 c = 335308314.5 mph
Acceleration = 5mph
Time (in hours) = 335308314.5/5


RE: Ion engines?
By jadeskye on 10/29/09, Rating: -1
RE: Ion engines?
By Ratinator on 10/29/2009 1:01:36 PM , Rating: 1
Yes last night actually :-)

PS: That is grade 11 physics.


RE: Ion engines?
By Chaser on 10/29/2009 2:08:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yes last night actually :-)

And they both make the jump to light speed at presisely the same time.


RE: Ion engines?
By Alexvrb on 10/30/2009 1:39:37 AM , Rating: 1
Nah, she faked it.


RE: Ion engines?
By ssjwes1980 on 10/29/2009 1:01:53 PM , Rating: 3
Im sure they have and they probably make more money then youll ever see.


RE: Ion engines?
By pakigang on 11/1/2009 12:29:26 AM , Rating: 2
& they die without taking any of it :p


RE: Ion engines?
By callmeroy on 10/29/2009 2:50:13 PM , Rating: 2
Usually, in my experience in my 30+ years so far on this mud ball we collectively call "earth"....its the people who brag about something the most that actually get whatever that is -- the least. The reason being is any thing beyond just occassional bragging generally hints at security/self esteem issues and wanting to appear closer to a societal norm than they really are.....

Or for the less convulated version....STFU! What does intelligence or lack thereof have to do with getting any action? I know plenty of women that are incredible looking and smart as hell -- and "very fun" to hang out with. :)


RE: Ion engines?
By maverick85wd on 10/29/2009 4:08:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
and "very fun" to hang out with. :)


Giggity. You hit the nail on the head with the rest, as well.


RE: Ion engines?
By Etsp on 10/29/2009 1:43:15 PM , Rating: 2
Velocity != Accerlation * Time
Velocity == Distance (In a particular direction) / Time
Speed == Distance / Time

Acceleration == Change in Speed(Or Velocity) / Time

Therefore:

Acceleration == Distance / Time / Time

OR:

Acceleration == Distance / Time^2

Acceleration is always measured in time squared. For example, the rate of acceleration of Earth's Gravity is: 9.8 meters per second per second. AKA 9.8mps^2

This means that your velocity increases by 9.8 meters per second for every second you are accelerating.


RE: Ion engines?
By LRonaldHubbs on 10/29/2009 1:56:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Velocity != Accerlation * Time

If v0 = 0, then yes, velocity does in fact = accel * time. Basic kinematics here...
v = a*t + v0

If you don't believe it, check the unit conversion:
m/(s^2) * s = m/s


RE: Ion engines?
By DeepBlue1975 on 10/29/2009 2:01:28 PM , Rating: 2
You say:
quote:

Velocity != Accerlation * Time
Velocity == Distance (In a particular direction) / Time
Speed == Distance / Time
quote:


But then you say:
quote:

Acceleration == Change in Speed(Or Velocity) / Time

Therefore:

Acceleration == Distance / Time / Time

OR:

Acceleration == Distance / Time^2
quote:


But then, you should have been aware that...

If Velocity = distance / time
and acceleration = velocity / time

Then you can say: acceleration * time = Velocity

The expressions are totally equivalent, don't know why you said that was incorrect... and then went on demonstrating how it is actually correct.


RE: Ion engines?
By Ratinator on 10/29/2009 4:57:53 PM , Rating: 2
Thankyou for pointing that out.

What I find interesting is so many here are compicating this by bringing distance into the equation. Distance was never part of the question. The question was time to get to a velocity of half the speed of light. If you have final velocity and the constant rate of acceleration, you can determine time to get to that velocity.


RE: Ion engines?
By MrPoletski on 10/30/2009 7:07:09 AM , Rating: 2
It is interesting.

s=ut + 1/2at^2 (we can ignore ut)

So getting to half the speed of light at 5pm takes 7600 years huh?

so that means in that time we travel a distance of 1/2 * 5 * 7600yrs^2 which is 22161818880000000 miles (roughly).

Thats about 3700 light years, or about 4% across the width of our galaxy.

what was the point of the original question again?


RE: Ion engines?
By MrPoletski on 10/30/2009 7:01:20 AM , Rating: 2
there is a preview button for a reason dude...


RE: Ion engines?
By AWeav09 on 10/29/2009 2:13:55 PM , Rating: 2
You contradict yourself. You admit that a=v/t, so multiply both sides by t and you have v=a*t.

Shall we have a review of kinematics just to settle things once and for all?
Assuming constant acceleration:
?v=a*t
?x=1/2*a*t^2 + v(initial)*t
v^2-v(initial)^2=2*a*?x


RE: Ion engines?
By AWeav09 on 10/29/2009 2:15:40 PM , Rating: 2
Those question marks are supposed to be deltas... I swear they worked in the preview.


RE: Ion engines?
By gamerk2 on 10/29/2009 2:54:04 PM , Rating: 2
Velocity = Distance (meters) / Time (second)

Acceleration = Change in Velocity (meters/second) / Change in Time (seconds) [hence, m/s^2]

We done now?


RE: Ion engines?
By gamerk2 on 10/29/2009 3:04:05 PM , Rating: 2
acceleration = final velocity - initial velocity / time

Vf = 335 million MPH = 156464000 M/S
Vi = 0
A= 5mph = 2.2352 M/S^2

So we get:

2.2352 Meters/Second^2 = 156464000 Meters/Second - 0 Meters/Second / x seconds
2.2352 Meters/Second^2 = 156464000 Meters/Second / x seconds
2.2352 Meters/Second^2 * x seconds = 156464000 Meters/Second
x = 156464000 Meters/Second / 2.2352 Meters/Second^2
x = 70,000,000 Seconds

70,000,000 seconds = 810.1851851852 days = ~2.22 years

Happy now?


RE: Ion engines?
By wessty1984 on 10/29/2009 5:22:52 PM , Rating: 2
Your equations are right but you didn't convert the acceleration right. 5 mi/hr^2 is .000620889 meters/second, you have to square the number of seconds per hour (3600^2) in the conversion so the units match.


RE: Ion engines?
By wessty1984 on 10/29/2009 5:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
correction .000620889 meters/second^2


RE: Ion engines?
By steve628 on 10/29/2009 6:32:57 PM , Rating: 2
The question: "how long will it take to reach half the speed of light at 5mph per hour (disregarding relativity)" is a question a child could answer.

I have pity for those who think they know so much, yet still fail to complete a rudimentary calculation.

Half the speed of light is about 335,000,000 mph.

If it requires an hour to gain 5 mph, then how many hours does it take to collect 335,000,000 mph?

335,000,000 mph divided by 5 mph per hour = 67,000,000 hours.

That's about 7,600 years.


RE: Ion engines?
By JediJeb on 10/30/2009 12:00:08 PM , Rating: 2
Basic Algebra beats Multivariable, gotta love it. :)

Finally someone other than me that does math the short way.


RE: Ion engines?
By Redwin on 11/23/2009 11:17:14 AM , Rating: 2
I think you must be intentionally trolling, but let me give you the benefit of the doubt and correct you:

"5 mph" is a constant velocity. You are treating it as an acceleration of the form 5 miles per hour per hour (5 mi/hr^2).

These are not the same units.


RE: Ion engines?
By MrPoletski on 10/30/2009 6:46:21 AM , Rating: 2
s=ut+1/2at^2 is the equation you look like you used
v=at^2 appears to be what you actually used.

Neither is the equation you want.

Acceleration is in metres per second, per second.

So multiply you acceleration by your time period and you get you velocity after that time period.

It's pretty simple stuff.

worth noting as well that at 50% of the speed of light you already have 25% more mass than before and time will be travelling at 75% the speed from the travellers FoR.

A more appropriate question might be not just 'how long does it take to get to the SOL accelerating at 5 m/s^2' but how long according to someone on earth or someone in the craft hehe. i.e. relativity is very relevant at these speeds and should be included in any calculations.


RE: Ion engines?
By BruceLeet on 10/29/2009 1:57:46 PM , Rating: 2
You guys are smart. I dont know what ^ means I just thought it was an arrow pointing upwards


RE: Ion engines?
By LRonaldHubbs on 10/29/2009 3:16:13 PM , Rating: 2
^ means 'to the power of'. For example, 3^2 means '3 to the power of 2', or '3 squared'.


RE: Ion engines?
By san1s on 10/30/2009 12:30:27 AM , Rating: 2
pfft smart, people are tested on this in a beginning high school physics class within the 1st one or weeks


RE: Ion engines?
By Jellodyne on 10/29/2009 10:16:52 AM , Rating: 2
Plasma ion engines like VASIMR have replaced standard ion engines as the most promising future space propulsion technology. The standard ion designs have a good specific impulse (efficiency) but are too weak for manned missions. Current plasma ion test platforms are showing far higher specific impulse and also enough thrust to get a crew to mars in a reasonable time frame. There'd almost certainly be a nuclear reactor on board to power the engine.

Anyway, all this stuff is still deep in development. It'd take a lot more testing before we entrust it with the lives of our astronauts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_specific_imp...


RE: Ion engines?
By stugatz on 10/29/2009 12:10:00 PM , Rating: 2
After the successful 200kW test of the VASIMR ion engine, many reports suggest that a spacecraft outfitted with such an engine could make a one way trip to mars in a mere 39 days:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17476-ion-en...

Even taking into consideration that they would have to begin their deceleration halfway to the planet, this is pretty impressive. Also, one would presume that it would be cheaper/easier to launch since they wouldn't have to lift as much chemical fuel out of the gravity well. The real issue is generating enough electricity to fully power such an engine, solar wont quite cut it yet. That Russian nuclear engine project is starting to sound pretty good right about now.

Also AdAstra is currently projecting they will have a very similar engine docked with the ISS by 2013(2014 in some reports) to provide some of the reboost capabilities currently using chemical propellants that must be ferried up on a regular basis.


RE: Ion engines?
By StraightCashHomey on 10/29/2009 10:30:40 AM , Rating: 2
They have ion engines in Star Wars.

This should be highlighted in red in no time.


RE: Ion engines?
By Icehearted on 10/29/2009 2:05:49 PM , Rating: 2
Plasma and ion weapons and propulsion, actually. Once NASA invents ludicrous speed we can begin to colonize Jupiter.

See that? Others can play too.

A good old fashioned rivalry might really be what NASA needs to get more motivated again. I remember when the space program was exciting, now it feels more like satellite placement/management and occasional tourism for obnoxiously wealthy men.


RE: Ion engines?
By MrPoletski on 10/30/2009 7:00:17 AM , Rating: 2
Yuor R2 unit called, your B-wing needs a jumpstart... ;)


RE: Ion engines?
By bildan on 10/30/2009 11:31:07 AM , Rating: 2
I read all the comments without seeing the term "Specific Impulse" which means how long (seconds) a unit of fuel can produce a unit of thrust. That's the key figure of merit for space propulsion systems.

Also absent was the Newtonian term Thrust = Mass x Velocity squared. A very small amount of exhaust mass ejected at an extremely high velocity (Ion/nuclear) can produce the same thrust as a large amount of mass expelled slowly (chemical rockets) - but far more efficiently.

Nuclear propulsion can be thermal or electric.

Ion engines can be powered by an electricity producing fission reactor. (Nuclear electric)

Apparently the Russians are proposing a nuclear thermal rocket where the exhaust gas is heated in the reactor core and expelled through a rocket nozzle.


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