Print 91 comment(s) - last by Redwin.. on Nov 23 at 11:17 AM

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.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Space Race!!
By ksherman on 10/29/2009 10:25:05 AM , Rating: -1
Gotta love a good space race. Hopefully this time the US doesn't just hang out in Arizona and fake it.

RE: Space Race!!
By TMV192 on 10/29/2009 10:32:28 AM , Rating: 1
nah, they'll hire Michael Bay to do some SFX this time around

RE: Space Race!!
By imaheadcase on 10/29/2009 10:51:45 AM , Rating: 2
Nasa: So blow it up?
nasa: We've already done that before, sir.
Bay: Do it again, but more fire this time!

RE: Space Race!!
By Spivonious on 10/29/2009 12:30:23 PM , Rating: 1
Speaking of Bay, I watched the latest Transformers movie last night.

What a snooze fest! Little to no storyline, just random robot fights and Megan Fox running in slow-mo.

RE: Space Race!!
By bespoke on 10/29/2009 1:04:22 PM , Rating: 2
What a snooze fest! Little to no storyline, just random robot fights and Megan Fox running in slow-mo.

Exactly what the 15-25 y.o. male demographic wants!

RE: Space Race!!
By Spivonious on 10/29/2009 2:16:35 PM , Rating: 2
lol, I guess I'm three years too old then.

RE: Space Race!!
By FITCamaro on 10/29/2009 3:04:45 PM , Rating: 1
How about just a heterosexual male? Because if you are one, you should like whats in that movie. Fighting robots, cool cars, explosions, and a hot chick sweating.

RE: Space Race!!
By callmeroy on 10/29/2009 11:58:14 AM , Rating: 5
Ahh another inference that the moon landing was staged....some people are so dense even when EVERY answer is given to all the theories as to why someone was real and not fake they still blindly believe no matter what that someone was fake....

*yawn* I wish folks would at least come up with something NEW to rant stories about being fake around...

Even Mythbusters did a full hour special on the Moon lander and like a check list addressed EVERY major reason non-believers had as to why the moon landing was fake..and they blew EVERY theory apart with real professionals, tests and experiments.

RE: Space Race!!
By callmeroy on 10/29/2009 11:59:27 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry I meant "SOMETHING" not "SOMEONE" in my original post...I'm sooooooo tired today....can barely think straight...

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki