Nuclear Power In Space

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Ramius, Jul 28, 2002.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    Okay, some people think it's a good idea, but others do not. There is really no other practical way to go long distances in space unless you have some kind of nuclear powered propulsion. It's either that, or go very slowly with chemical rockets. I would like to know what you guys think on the subject.

    Here are some helpfull links:

    Helium 3 can be used in Fusion reactors

    Nuclear Power

    Anti space nuke article

    interesting idea that unfortunately will probably never be used

    Fusion Rockets


    Here's good link, it doesn't deal with Nukes in space, but it is a good space site:

    Space Island Group

    If these guys were in charge at NASA, the ISS would have artificial gravity, and would be completed. You can also talk about the feasibility of what that site talks about.

    EDIT: Okay, got the links fixed.
  2. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    Well... they have been using radioactive decay as a method of propulsion since the Voyager series of spacecraft.
  3. Sar-Tamber-lac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 24, 2002
    star 5
    I don't know how I would feel about that...there sure is a lot of danger if they decided to proceed with it...no one expected the Challenger to blow up, but it did...no one might expect these nukes to blow, or for something to go wrong, but if it did, we're talkin about much larger destruction then the Challenger ever could have caused...I think there's almost too much risk involved to attempt it...
  4. Jedi_Master_Anakin Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 25, 2002
    star 4
    I think that we need to get rid of the Nuclear weapons we have now, not make more powerful ones that can blow up in space for gods sake. Will people never learn?
  5. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    One way to look at it is this: the U.S. Navy has submarines and surface ships powered by nulcear reactors, and if they have an accident(not likely) there would be a big environmental problem, just like if a spacecraft exploded near the atmosphere while launching. If there is an accident in deep space, it won't effect us.

    I think this boils down to either you support nuclear power, or you don't.

  6. Sar-Tamber-lac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 24, 2002
    star 5
    *shrugs shoulders* Ok, then...I don't believe in nuclear power...I think it's one of the worst things humankind has ever come up with...
  7. Herman Snerd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 1999
    star 6
    Let's get one thing straight, actual nuclear explosions don't just happen. You can light a stick of dynamite on top of a brick of plutonium and nothing will happen, aside from fracturing the plutonium. Nuclear bombs are extremely precise.

    If a rocket carrying nuclear material exploded, the result would be a basic dirty bomb. There would be fallout from the explosion, but no fission reaction. Given that we launch our rockest from Florida, more than likel the explosion and fallout would occur over the Atlantic, and it's not like haven't had more than a few actual bomb tests out there over the years.

    Nuclear power is one of the possible futures of space flight if we ever seriously plan to do anything more than just orbit the earth.
  8. Sar-Tamber-lac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 24, 2002
    star 5
    Well, I live in Florida, so that doesn't help my opinion much! :)
  9. GrandAdmiralJello Community and Lit moderator person

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    That is correct.

    A very feasible technology involves using a fission reaction to accelerate mercury ions out from the rear of the vessel.

    Most methods involve using the heat created by such a reaction to acceleration substances out, creating thrust.

    That would be a controlled nuclear reaction, and one that could not possibly result in a nuclear explosion.

    You'd only get some sort of leak if an accident were to happen.


    Think about it. You'd only get a few hundred REMs, if that, of radiation from any leak. More people will die from car crashes than any spacecraft related mishap.


    Well, I live in Florida, so that doesn't help my opinion much!

    The launch site would most likely be moved to account for wind patterns./>/>
  10. Sar-Tamber-lac Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 24, 2002
    star 5
    yeah, but you would deal with that anywhere you moved it, wouldn't you?
  11. obi_wan_kanathan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 10, 2001
    star 4
    You would move where they are launched so the wind patterns don't go into Miami or somewhere like that. I'm guessing that you would want to put the launch site somewhere where wind patterns go into the ocean, or an uninhabited area. That way, the fallout wouldn't harm most people.
  12. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    There is a potential nuclear fission fuel called americium-242m.
    This particular fuel comes in the form of a thin film and requires only 1% of the normal fission fuels to achieve fission.
    Estimates say instead of a trip to Mars taking approx 6 months, an americium-242m(or AM-242)powered spacecraft could get you there in as little as 2 weeks.

    As far as safety, nuclear power is safer than most relize even though accidents are always possible.

    Thanks to a little booboo by NASA a few decades ago, we all have a little bit of nuclear material in our bodies.
  13. Darth_SnowDog Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2001
    star 4
    Ion Pulse Thrust engines are incredibly efficient... used on the Deep Space One probe, an 11 inch aperture is propelling the craft, launched out of the atmosphere by conventional rockets, at 68,000mph through space... three times faster than the Saturn and Atlas rockets... but, because of its ability to maintain long, sustained thrust using ion particles as the means of populsion, it reaches such a speed with the equivalent thrust pressure of two sheets of paper sitting on your hand.
  14. Herman Snerd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 1999
    star 6
    Yes, if one can get past the fear-mongering about nuclear power, it's quite safe, at least when done correctly. The only real example of a near nuclear incident on American soil was Three Mile Island.

    The radiation leaked during that incident was the equivalent of a dental x-ray. Plus, it took a lot of human screw-ups to override the automatic safety systems to make it even that bad.

    Given that the prevailing winds blow from west to east, if a rocket exploded after takeoff, most, if not all, of the radioactive material would be blown out to sea.
  15. Miin_Bodenna Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 7, 2002
    star 3
    Why not just put normal rocket engines on the space craft...then when its out of the atmosphere just kick in the Nuclear Power so theres no worrying about one of those things having a meltdown.

    And how big would a space shuttle have to be to put a Nuclear Engine in.
  16. dustchick Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2000
    star 1
    "Regular" rocket engines tend to be quite large and require a LOT of fuel. Whereas nuclear reactors tend to be quite small. In space flight, weight = cost, so nuclear reactors are quite cheap as well as being safe and long-lived.

    Here is a link to information on the nuclear power generator on the Cassini probe, currently on its way to Saturn:

    Cassini spacecraft power

    And, in case you are wondering, Cassini is inbetween Jupiter and Saturn now and has successfully completed all Earth-flybys. Take a look around the Cassini site - cool stuff!

    Edit - I had misread the above post. NO spacecraft are lifted into orbit via nuclear power, of course. It is, as pointed out below, radioactive debris from an explosion that people worry about.
  17. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    Why not just put normal rocket engines on the space craft...then when its out of the atmosphere just kick in the Nuclear Power so theres no worrying about one of those things having a meltdown


    Thats what they would do. What some people are afraid of, is the rocket exploding, and the nuclear material being spread out over a populated area. But even if the rocket exploded, the nuclear material would not explode along with the rocket. They don't put things that impotant in card board boxes, it would be in sort of a "black "box" type of container that could withstand an explosion.

    The crew compartment of challenger did not even blow up, the impact to the sea is what killed the astronauts.
  18. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    Miin,
    Thats basically how it would have to be done.
    Any nuclear powered spacecraft to take people to other planets in the solar system would have to be built in space, it would never see the surface of the Earth again.

    We do not have the ability to create a craft
    that can take off from the ground with the fuel to get the craft to orbit along with the nuclear engine to go out into the solar system, all in one package. The fuel and weight requirements are too large.

  19. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    We do not have the ability to create a craft
    that can take off from the ground with the fuel to get the craft to orbit along with the nuclear engine to go out into the solar system, all in one package


    I agree, that would have to be one huge rocket. You could launch it up in several sections though, with smaller rockets, but that would still limit the craft's size, and overall speed.

    Estimates say instead of a trip to Mars taking approx 6 months, an americium-242m(or AM-242)powered spacecraft could get you there in as little as 2 weeks

    Wow, that's interesting. I had never heard of that stuff. Unfortunatly, I can't find very much info on it. Just the same article, and variations of it. Two weeks to Mars is increadibly fast!
  20. stevo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2001
    star 4
    Estimates say instead of a trip to Mars taking approx 6 months, an americium-242m(or AM-242)powered spacecraft could get you there in as little as 2 weeks

    That sounds really interesting-- do you have a link to it?

    By the way- I am a big supporter of nuclear power. Its extremely effiecent and with the way they run things now adays, very safe. I would know, my dad used to design them.
  21. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    This is a big ugly url so if the link I'm about to post does not work just go to sciencedaily.com/releases and it should be easy to find.

    sciencedaily.com
  22. Coolguy4522 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2000
    star 4
    I am too lazy to read the links, but I saw a show on PBS about this, and I think it would be very cool to have a huge ship take off from the blast of a nuclear explosion. Of course the environmentalists would go nuts, but it would make space travel cheap and usefull.
  23. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    The only possibility I can think of for an Earth launched nuclear engine encompases a "closed" reactor which has a liquid fuel thats circulates around the reactor. As it heats it expands and pushes out the back like a conventional rocket.
    An "open" nuclear rocket literally shoots the nuclear fuel itself out the back, you don't want that as a launch from Earth.
    In space it would be like pouring a shot of water into the ocean.

    There are alternatives that provide very high speed. The M2P2 is a magnetic sphere filled with a plasma gas that would enshroud the vehicle. Top speed is around 180,000 mph. The solar wind pushes it along.
    Two M2P2 problems: 1. Despite such a fast top speed it takes about 3 months to get to that speed. 2. So far the only architecture under development would propel a probe weighing a few hundred pounds. There is the possibility for scaling up however.

    To get to Mars in 10 days with the americium 242 nuclear fuel you will accelerate ALOT faster than the M2P2 and have a potentially greater top velocity.

    The closest Mars usually gets is 45 million miles. Not counting acceleration and deceleration you could get there at 180,000 mph in ten days.

    An M2P2 would work best as a LARGE scale interstellar propulsion system in the future. You need large space based laser to push the probe even faster. The higher the power of the laser the faster you go. It s possible to push such a probe up to very high percentages of lightspeed. You would not even have to worry about deceleration because that would be provided by the solar wind of the target star interacting with the magnetic field of the M2P2. No matter what speed you get to it will slow you down.
    This means you can accelerate all the way instead of just halfway and thenhaving to slow down by other means.

    Fission and even fusion propulsion can get us around the solar system really well, but even those do not have the power to get you to other stars.
  24. Coolguy4522 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2000
    star 4
    A open ended nuclear reaction on earth would be no more harmful that the thousands of nuclear tests that have already happened. If we used this means, I don't think we would need more than 100 launches to get everything we would need, the rest could use a less dangerous system.
  25. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    I'd rather not have an open reactor shooting out radoiactive material into the atmosphere. It really is bad and there are alternatives that are clean.

    I don't know if I can hold my breath for fusion because about every 20 years fusion scientists come out and say, "Well, be about another 20 years." We are closer than ever before. The best fusion fuel is helium3 which is very rare on Earth but EXTREMELY abundant on the Moon. Mine the lunar surface and sell this stuff off and you will make about $1 billion per ton. This will drop in price as you "flood the market" with it, but it'll still make you gobs of money.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.