Nuclear Power In Space

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

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  1. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    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

    What you are describing sounds like Orion. Small nuclear bombs with a little fuel dropped from the spacecraft, explode, and the plasma that was the fuel, expand against a pusher plate, and shock absorbers take most of the G's for a safe ride for the inhabitants. When the project was first concieved, the scientists thought that "clean" fission bombs were "just around the corner" so they didn't think pollution would be a big problem.

    They also designed a smaller version, to be sent up in 2 sections on Saturn V rockets.

    While this is a very fast mode of transportation, I don't think it will ever become reality. The public will never be comfortable with a spaceship powered by several thousand low yield nuclear bombs. However, it would be a feasible way to rid ourselves of the stockpiles of nuclear weapons that many people seem think we can just "get rid of".


    VadersLaMent, I've heard of the M2P2, and I agree, it doesn't sound practical for anything other than space probes. If I read correctly, it would be usefull in blocking radiation once you get past the earth's magnetosphere, so it would still be a good thing to have.

    The americium 242 nuclear fuel sounds almost too good to be true. Lets hope NASA and other space agencies help with the research of this.

    As for manned interstellar travel, I think the best we can hope for is a breakthrough in the way we produce anti-matter. As long as we can produce a lot of the stuff and cheaply, it will be our window to the stars.
  2. Gutter_Monkey Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 15, 2001
    star 3
    Well why use a dangerious system in the first place? I'm not opposed to the use of nuclear power once your up there, but I would be opposed to in atomsphre detonations for the purpose of luanch. Besides, who would be crazy enough to ride a shockwave from a nuke into space?
  3. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    I would be opposed to in atomsphre detonations for the purpose of luanch. Besides, who would be crazy enough to ride a shockwave from a nuke into space?

    That is one of the reasons why the Orion program was cancelled. No "clean nukes" were invented, so launching from the surface would definatly be out of the question.

    I wouldn't mind riding a nuke's shockwave into space or once I'm in space, as long as the people who desinged the ship were smart people. When you think about it, it's just as dangerous riding on 40,000 gallons of rocket fuel that could explode any moment ;)
  4. Kimball_Kinnison Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    If you want cheap, safe and efficient nuclear powered launches, try looking at a nuclear-powered magnetic rail catapult (as in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress). It would be a gigantic rail gun that could accelerate items to orbital speeds (or even escape velocity, for travel to the moon) and could be powered by the output from a single (but large) nuclear power plant.

    The ideal site would be a tall mountain with a long plateau running to the west, as close to the equator as possible. The higher up it is, the less air resistance you would face. You want the long plateau to provide support (running west to take advantage of the earth's rotation). The closer it is to the equator, the more you can use the rotation of the earth to slingshot it away.

    Kimball Kinnison
  5. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    The magnetic field produced around the M2P2 will indeed help shield against radiation but a cosmic ray can still get through. The field could be a kilometer across and if you want a little more acceleration you can just add more plasma gas.
    The M2P2 is a good alternative/replacement idea for a solar sail. The sail itself although very light still has a greater weight than a gas filled mag field.

    There are interesting things happening in the quantum fields of study. There are possibilities of true FTL here, but much like any FTL concept the energy requirements are tremendous(But not impossible!).

    Several things would have to come together if no FTL is ever possible and we want to see other solar systems.
    First off a large M2P2 field is a must because you don't have to carry fuel to slow down.
    We must get good at creating large structures in space because no one will want to go if they don't have elbow room.
    Life extension is important I think, if the people who go want to come back. However...
    If you can't go fast, then you don't go. Anti-matter/matter drives, laser pushed propulsion and so on, are going to be the needed technologies. You won't send someone off at say 10 percent lightspeed when a couple decades down the road you make something that goes 60% lightspeed and overtakes your first ark of people.
    We must master the ability to create enclosed ecologies. If you are at the halfway mark of a 10 lightyear journey and a crop goes bad, then dead explorers might be arriving at the destination.

    I can't hunt up a link right now, but go to any search engine and type in:
    "The High Frontier" and you will get many links about space colonies that canhouse thousands or millions of people.
    Hook up a super propulsion system to such a colony and you have an interstellar ark.

    SInce this is a nukes in space thread, even on these journeys you will need some good cheap power, and solar collectors will not help you between the stars. Fission, fusion or even anti-matter/matter reactors will be needed.

    EDIT: Sometimes I feel like I'm dyslexic, the spelling errors should be corrected now. D'oh!
  6. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    You won't send someone off at say 10 percent lightspeed when a couple decades down the road you make something that goes 60% lightspeed and overtakes your first ark of people

    It's funny you should mention that. I was watching a program about travel between stars, and they talked about large city ships, but ones that traveled slowly, so it would take thousands of years to get where you're going. They said it would not be practicle to go slow, because once you get there, a colony has already been established by people who had anti-matter rockets that left after you did.

    Could you also use lasers on the M2P2 for planetary travel? It could cut down on fuel requirements for slowing down, and add a little extra speed for trips out to Saturn and Uranus for Helium-3 mining.

    If you want cheap, safe and efficient nuclear powered launches, try looking at a nuclear-powered magnetic rail catapult

    That sounds like an inventive idea. The Andes mts. would be a good place to put it, and it would help the SA economy. It would be a big engineering feet, but no bigger than the great wall of China or the Pyramids.
  7. Miin_Bodenna Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 7, 2002
    star 3
    Thanks for the clarification...i was trying to read the forum...but i regularly day dream while reading and forget what i read.
  8. Kimball_Kinnison Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    The Andes mts. would be a good place to put it, and it would help the SA economy. It would be a big engineering feet, but no bigger than the great wall of China or the Pyramids.

    Africa has a few possible sites as well. In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, colonists on the moon used the catapult to launch grain (and later rocks) to earth. It played a vital part in the moon's fight for independence.

    There are a few disadvantages, though. You would need to make it about 40 miles long to provide a gentle enough acceleration for humans to tolerate (with a reasonable power/thrust ratio). If you make it too powerful, you would crush anyone who tried to ride it. During a launch, it would also unleash a large compression wave (of air) much like a sonic boom.

    Kimball Kinnison
  9. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    I briefly mentioned it above, but yes a multi gigawatt laser would help alot.
    Go to Mercury and use the materials there to build large solar collectors in orbit.
    These then turn that energy to laser light to be beamed to a focus which can then shine a laser on a plasma gas filled mag field.

    You will hear much more about light sails rather than mag fields because there are decades of research behind solar and laser light sails and only about a decade of mag field research for space propulsion.

    As far as space colonies hooked up to a space drive, you will need multiple hydroponics gardens, power plants with multiple backups, materials to totally replace your drive if needed, and people would need to keep their egoes in check.

    There is a system called rapid prototyping that can create any mechanical part you could ever want by shooting a laser into a resin to form the item kept in computer memory. This is a "primitive" form a nanotech of fabricating anything you need to.
    it would be advatageous to create your colony out of asteroidal material and leave a large portion in its raw form so you have materials to work with if needed.

    Once again any search engine with "The High Frontier" or "space colonies" should yield lots of results.
  10. Herman Snerd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 1999
    star 6
    Dang, there's been a lot of cool stuff posted since I was last here. :D
  11. SirLancelot Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 10, 2002
    star 4
    The great thing about nuke plants, they are the cleanest, most efficent, and powerful form of power yet created. why it isent our primary source of power is a complete mystery to me.

    when we go to space we will need nuclear power. if we where to set up large bases on the moon, one primary nuke planet would be our best option.
  12. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    In brief:
    A new reactor called the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor or PBMR is graphite encased uranium fuel pellets the size of billiard balls using helium instead of water for cooling.

    Originally touted as meltdown proof(and still is by some) there are of course dangers with any nuclear plant.

    Small power plants that produce 100 megawatts are planned, which is one tenth the conventional plant output, but they are smaller, cheaper, and could be built easier and faster.
  13. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    Has anyone looked at the last link on the first page? I find it to be a very interesting idea. Basically, they want to use the shuttles' big fuel tank, and put them into orbit to use as space stations.

    Here's a quote from the website:
    The numbers are startling. If the Space Island Group could launch (20) slightly modified External Fuel Tanks and deliver them to orbit for between $100 to $125 million per tank and to modify on orbit would add between $50 to $75 million per tank. The average cost of a (7) Geode Zero-Gravity Station would be approximately $1 to $1.4 billion each and the cost of one (14) Geode Partial Gravity Ring Station will be about $2.1 to $2.8 billion.


    Each of the tanks would have approximately 100,000 cubic feet of interior space. Of that approximately 1/3 of each tank would be used for life support, command and control and other maintenance activities leaving about 66,000 cubic feet of usable space. On the typical (7) Geode Zero-Gravity Station approximately 462,000 cubic feet will be available for lease.


    We estimate that we will begin by charging $20 per cubic foot per day and on the Zero-Gravity Stations with revenues generated each year in excess of $3.4 billion. We estimate that the cost of building each of the stations will be paid off within (3) years from the beginning of the station's operation.


    They also plan on a second generation shuttle. I think it is a good plan, but I find the $20 per cubic foot a day rather expensive. Who would be able to pay that much? That's also another thing to consider: The prices that they estimate to build the station might be a little low to make their idea seem more feasible.
  14. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    Anything concerning getting something to space is going to be expensive until it becomes frequent and routine. The more often a company buys the fuel, the lower the price will go.
    A single stage to orbit vehicle can pull launch costs down from the Space Shuttle's $10,000 per pound to $1,000 per pound. That can be reduced further the more often it is used.
    A beanstalk, skyhook, or a rail launched sytem as mentioned above could possibly get the cost down to an airline ticket per passenger!
    We have a way to go yet.
  15. SirLancelot Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 10, 2002
    star 4
    i always like the VentureStar. it was a reusable ship that can carry a payload equal to an 18-wheeler. it was cheep because it used hydrogen fuel. it was small so it required a small platform to launch and land, and it was simple to tunraround.

    the space shuttle was supposed to have a turnaround of a feew weeks, now it is a few months. it requires a specialized platform, and a massive support crew. we could have saved billions of dollers had we found a more effective design.
  16. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    No we musn't use nuclear power in space. Space is clean and it shouldn't be polluted, especially with radiation. [face_plain]
  17. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    Space is not "clean".
    There is more radiation zipping through space than you can imagine.
    Using a nuclear rocket in space islike pouring a shot of water in the ocean.

    There is a way around it all of course.
    If nanotechnolgy can be fully relized the weight of space vehicles can be reduced by 90%!

    Right now if you want to make a single stage to orbit vehicle like the VentureStar, 90% of the weight on the launch pad is FUEL.

    Decreasing the weight of the launch vehicle by a factor of ten would make launching single stage to orbit vehicles SUPER cheap and carry very large paylods to orbit.
    With such a weight reduction nuclear power would not be needed to get around in the solar system. Although, no matter what the weight of the vehicle, nuclear power still provide faster speads than conventional chemical rockets.
    Edited for spelling.
  18. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    Space is clean and it shouldn't be polluted, especially with radiation

    Are you kidding? Space is already filled with radiation. It's natural.

    Space Radiation

    Here's a quote from that article:
    The 30 or so astronauts that NASA plans to send to space this year for construction of the International Space Station may face deadly doses of solar radiation when a period of intense space weather peaks in the coming months

    If you were to travel outside the earth's magnetosphere, which protects against most radiation, the rad. levels would skyrocket. Even Jupiter emmits deadly amounts of radiation. So if an accident happened in space with nuclear material, it would have no effect.
  19. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    You guys are kidding right? Yeah right, next thing you'll tell me space is cold. The sun keeps it plenty warm.
  20. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    I can't tell if your trolling or if you honestly don't know.
    Either way its its kinda rude.

    BTW, if you were is space without a suit on the side facing the sun would burn to a crisp while the side facing away would feeze solid. Our atmosphere here on Earth keeps this from happening.

    EDIT:eek:therwise I am enjoying this topic alot, right along with the "Big bang vs Ceationism" thread.
  21. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    [face_laugh]

    Don't get bent out of shape LaMent.

    What's the topic? How did I waver from it?



    ShaneP President, The Flat-Earth Society.


    Edit: Nuclear "fission" is one way to explore the cosmos;unfortunately, fission reactors are still theory.
  22. tenorjedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 2000
    star 5
    I'm not sure nano tech would help too much simply because a deep space vechile would need to be radiation shielded, most likely by encasing the entire ship with lead. That'll add to the weight. Now a satelite orbiter wouldn't need that.

    BTW, maybe I'm just going bonkers but fission is splitting atoms apart right? That's what we do everyday. Fusion is the one we haven't mastered yet. That's the one that would solve our energy woes.
  23. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    I always get the two mixed up. I stand corrected tenor. :)
  24. tenorjedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 2000
    star 5
    I thought that was right. Just remember that it's easier to destroy than create and you'll never get them mixed up.
  25. Ramius Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 3
    If we had colonies on the moon, we could mine for helium 3, which scientists think would be perfect for fusion reactors. It is valued at $4 billion a ton in it's fuel equivilant to oil. The only problem is you have to have a huge mining operation on the moon, but it could probably all be done with robots. And the atmospheres of Saturn and Uranus have an almost infinite supply of helium 3.
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