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Russia: Nuclear Powered Spacecraft

 
 
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2010 09:22 pm
Russia will endeavour to become the world’s first nation to build a nuclear-powered spacecraft for interplanetary flights.

The Russian Government has allocated 500 million roubles ($17 million) in 2010 for designing a nuclear engine and a spacecraft for long space travel.

The draft design of the spacecraft is slated to be ready by 2012, while the actual model is expected to be developed by 2018. The total cost of the project is estimated at about $600 million.

“Nuclear engines for spaceships are a very promising area. Such engines are a must if flights to Mars and other planets are to be undertaken,” said Russia’s space agency Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov.

He said a Megawatt-class nuclear-electric propulsion system will be designed by the Keldysh Centre for rocket engines jointly with the Energiya space corporation.

Russia has a unique half-a-century experience in developing and operating n-power reactors in space. According to space engineering expert Yury Zaitsev, the Soviet Union launched a total of 32 spacecraft with small-capacity nuclear propulsion units in the 1970s and 1980s. By comparison, the United States had only one such craft with a nuclear-reactor launched in 1965.

Nuclear powered spacecraft are essential for space travels far from the sun, where getting power from solar energy becomes problematic, and to planets like Mars, where sandstorms often black out sunlight.

http://beta.thehindu.com/news/international/article79656.ece
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Type: Discussion • Score: 11 • Views: 8,052 • Replies: 99
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 06:15 am
@edgarblythe,
The US toyed with this when I was a little kid. I used to read articles in Pop SCience about the possibility of interstellar flight by nuclear power. The idea came crashing down during the ascendent age of Quality Control and "Risk Assessemnt".
Turned out that having a large nuclear engine in near earth orbit may prove to be an unacceptable option for safety concerns.

Russians always take longer to "get it".Or are they jut waay ahead of the next big thing?
I think we should spend bigger bucks on colonizing the oceans.

Hell,weve got several generations of multiple reentry nuke vehicles in orbit now. We call these MIRVs
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 06:48 am
Yeah, the article mentions the US in, what '65? doing something with the idea.
Looks like they will either have spectacular success in Russia or catastrophic failure. I am not particularly optimistic.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 07:01 am
@edgarblythe,
Russia is the master at chaos and incompetence . Theyve made it a point of their culture
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 10:17 am
Our flirtation with this was project NERVA long ago. We need to do something to get higher specific impulse than chemical bi-propellants provide.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 02:42 pm
@edgarblythe,
I love the simple concept of having a heavy metal plate attached to a spacecraft and then exploding very small nuclear bombs behind pushing a spacecraft along.

If memory serve me correctly there was no reason in theory why such a craft would not had work and been able to place hundreds of tons on Mars for example directly from the surface of the earth.

Some fairly large models was tested with non-nuclear explosives and work fine.

The problem in building such a craft was the using hundreds of nuclear explosives in the atmosphere and the danger of developing the technology for very very small nuclear bombs devices.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 02:50 pm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

Project Orion was the first engineering design study of a spacecraft powered by nuclear pulse propulsion, an idea proposed first by Stanisław Ulam during 1947. The project, initiated in 1958, envisioned the explosion of atomic bombs behind the craft and was led by Ted Taylor at General Atomics and physicist Freeman Dyson, who at Taylor's request took a year away from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton to work on the project.

By using energetic nuclear power, the Orion concept offered high thrust and specific impulse at the same time; the optimum combination for spacecraft propulsion. As a qualitative comparison, traditional chemical rockets (the Moon-class Saturn V or the Space Shuttle being prime examples) provide (rather) high thrust, but low specific impulse, whereas ion engines do the opposite. Orion would have offered performance greater than the most advanced conventional or nuclear rocket engines now being studied. Cheap interplanetary travel was the goal of the Orion Project. Its supporters felt that it had potential for space travel, but it lost political approval over concerns with fallout from its propulsion.[1] The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 is generally acknowledged to have ended the project.

0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 03:34 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

Yeah, the article mentions the US in, what '65? doing something with the idea...

The first space probes using plutonium for energy were launched in 1977 - by NASA, the Russians don't advertise their satellites' maneuvering capabilities unless and until they have an accident. How is that news?
Quote:
The last two missions to use plutonium were the New Horizons probe headed for Pluto and the Cassini space probe that is circling Saturn. Plutonium-powered probes last a long time. The twin Voyager spacecraft headed beyond our solar system and launched in 1977 are expected to keep working until about 2020.....

http://current.com/items/90028059_nasa-is-running-out-of-nuclear-fuel-needed-for-space-probes-to-explore.htm
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 04:23 pm
@High Seas,
I remember now. I was thinking about nuclear powered airplanes. That was the really dumb idea.
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 06:45 pm
@farmerman,
Not so dumb... George OB has posted somewhere details on the prototype nuclear-powered plane that exploded, but all prototypes have killed pilots at various times. Right now there's no alternative to aviation fuel, no harm in testing new technologies.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 05:17 am
@High Seas,
I never hear of any nuclear power planes exploding and given the very nature of nuclear power, I off hand find that unlikely on it face.

Large nuclear power plants can have exploded gasses generated in their containment buildings that can then blow the containment building apart in theory but I cannot see how a lightweight nuclear power plant powering a plane could explode.

Any link to such a story would be interesting to see.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 06:57 am
@High Seas,
yeah but would a nuke aircraft be a recip engine? I cant believe wed have a jet or rocket spewing out contrails of tritiated steam.
Im gonna go with my gut on this, and that gut feeling is that its still and will probably continue to be, a dumb idea.

BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 10:15 am
@farmerman,
Quote:
yeah but would a nuke aircraft be a recip engine? I


When I was a child farmerman I can still remember reading about the suggestion of mounting just such engines on airships giving them worldwide range and months of being able to be airborne.

This was when I was twelve or thirteen and if memory serves me correctly, the article was in either Popular Mechanics or Popular Science.

Have no idea if the idea was seriously consider or not.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 10:26 am
@farmerman,
Lord I can not remember where I had placed my eyeglasses just a few minutes ago but somehow I can remember reading an article on an atom power airship forty two years ago!!!!!!!!!!!!

See below.

http://www.agaeroplast.com/new/engl/Nigel_e.pdf


However, another US project had already received a great deal of publicity by the mid 1960’s, namely the nuclear-powered rigid airship design of Professor Francis Morse of Boston University. Prof. Morse had long been fascinated in rigid airship design and technology, and had some experience as an engineer with the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. Indeed, Morse’s interest can be traced back to his student days, when he wrote his thesis “The Rigid Airship Andromeda “ back in the 1940’s.
The nuclear-powered rigid airship had been introduced to the American public in a series of articles featured in the magazine “Popular Mechanics” by Frank Tinsley, and the writings of Edwin J. Kirschner, author of “The Zeppelin in the Atomic Age”. Prof. Morse’s detailed design was first publicised at the 1963 World’s Fair. The airship was to be 980ft (298.7m) long and 172ft (52.4m) in diameter, with a volume of some 12,500,000cu ft (353,960cu m) of helium. It was designed to carry up to 400 passengers in absolute luxury at a top speed of 103mph (89.5kts). Morse planned to have 5 cargo holds, each of 80,000cu ft (2,265cu m) volume, space for an 18 passenger aeroplane ferry and finally, some 40,000sq ft (3,716sq m) of passenger accommodations spread out over 3 decks.
The structure of the Morse design was essentially conventional, and the airship strongly resembled the British R101 in its outward appearance. Indeed, Morse seemed to borrow various features from both R100 and R101. The use of only 16 main longitudinal girders, with “reefing girders” between them to stretch out the outer cover was very reminiscent of R101, whereas the employment of a bow-to-stern axial corridor was more characteristic of R100. The structural weight of the Morse Nuclear Rigid was worked out at a precise 76.2tns (168,000lbs) with gross lift at 95% inflation given as 344.7tns (760,000lbs). The useful lift was given as some 136tns (300,000lbs) with an actual available payload of 81.6tns (180,000lbs).
The nuclear power-plant was to drive 3 engines at the stern of the airship: a 4,000hp gas-turbine for the 60ft (18.2m) long dual rotation propellers, and two 1,000hp turbofans for the boundary layer control ducts installed aft. The reactor was to have been some 630ft (192m) back from the nose of the airship in an expansion of the axial corridor. The entire installation with shielding was to be enclosed in a pressurised steel sphere, 13ft (3.9m) in diameter, with a total weight of 50tns (110,231lbs). This would still have come in under the weight of conventional fuel needed for long flights in a comparable airship with internal combustion engines.
The Morse proposal did attract considerable interest for sometime, and it was extensively featured in the popular press of both Europe and the US. It gained a degree of public acceptance with the enthusiasm and vogue for all things “atomic” I the 1960’s, but no practical steps were ever taken to make the design a reality. Indeed, no company was set up to actually build the Morse design, despite it appearing to be technically feasible.
America wasn’t the only country proposing to re-evaluate the airship in the 1960’s, far from it. By the middle of the decade another nuclear proposal had appeared in the national press of the country that was, and always will be synonymous with the giant rigid airship and indeed the land of its birth; Germany. The proposal of Erich von Veress (actually an Austrian engineer based in Graz) was incredibly ambitious, combining nuclear propulsion
with other radical innovations. The ALV-1 (standing for Atom
0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 05:46 pm
@farmerman,
farmerman wrote:

yeah but would a nuke aircraft be a recip engine? I cant believe wed have a jet or rocket spewing out contrails of tritiated steam..

http://www.scientificamerican.com/media/inline/nuclear-powered-aircraft_1.jpg
Quote:
NUCLEAR-POWERED CONVAIR NB-36H "PEACEMAKER": Depicted here is a view of the Convair NB-36H Peacemaker experimental aircraft and a Boeing B-50 Superfortress chase plane during research and development taking place at the Convair plant at Forth Worth, Tex. The NB-36H was modified to carry a three-megawatt, air-cooled nuclear reactor in its bomb bay. This was the only known airborne reactor experiment undertaken by the U.S. with an operational nuclear reactor on board.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nuclear-powered-aircraft

Contrails weren't the problem. The prototype that exploded was on the ground, in an indoors shielded facility, and only the engine was involved. Shielding is one of the problems, but I don't have a full list. However I disagree with you that nuclear-powered aircraft are a "dumb idea".
parados
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 06:00 pm
@edgarblythe,
This made me think of one of the other ideas about space flight, laser powered spacecraft.

Here's the idea...
Now you can sign your computer up for SETI to use when you are not.
http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/

Let's do the same thing with laser pointers.
With all the laser pointers out there, why not harness all that energy and use them to help send a space craft to Mars when people aren't shining them at planes or driving cats crazy.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 06:39 pm
@parados,
Quote:
Now you can sign your computer up for SETI to use when you are not.
http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/


You know I had some security concerns in joining my computers to a bot network as that what such programs as SETI are if hopefully only a good bot net and a harmless one beside.

Even with an open source project there could still be security holes that could end up bitting people who join SETI and similar programs in the rear end.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  0  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 06:43 pm
somebody please educate me...what is the objection to nuclear spacecraft? I assume that it must either be that we put ourselves at risk because something could go wrong at launch, or some kind of moral problem with polluting space with nuclear material.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 06:52 pm
@High Seas,
Quote:
CONTRAILS WERENT THE PROBLEM. The prototype that exploded was on the ground, in an indoors shielded facility, and only the engine was involved. Shielding is one of the problems, but I don't have a full list. However I disagree with you that nuclear-powered aircraft are a "dumb idea".


If contrails werent A problem, what was the exhaust gas coming out the jet engine? Wasnt it nuclear heated steam???

A prototype exploded on the ground --you know how good that makes me feel???

shielding is one of the problems---Please tell me something we dont know!!!!

HOWEVER, I disagree with you that nuclear-powered aircraft are a "dumb" idea

Well, will you accept that its not a really bright idea??
Im sure with the standard mort analyses done for aircraft accidents, the concept of a nuke powered plane would have all sorts of red flags and sirens associated with the concept.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Jan, 2010 07:01 pm
@hawkeye10,
Quote:
somebody please educate me...what is the objection to nuclear spacecraft? I assume that it must either be that we put ourselves at risk because something could go wrong at launch, or some kind of moral problem with polluting space with nuclear material.


With the Orien brute force project that would enable us to get to Mars from the earth surface and set up a complete colony with one trip it would mean setting off hundreds of tiny but still nuclear bombs/devices inside the atmosphere.

Now the anti-nuke people have a heart attack when we launch a space probe with a small nuclear battery so you can just picture their reaction to launching such a spaceship.

All other nuclear means had similar problems if not as great and as the launch from the earth surface is where you need the energy that nuclear can give the most using nuclear outside the atmosphere is of far less benefit.


 

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