NUCLEAR POWERED ROCKETS
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- In 2023, the US space agency started a new program named NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) and has selected the development of a new concept of bimodal nuclear propulsion.
- This new bimodal nuclear propulsion system will use a “wave rotor topping cycle” that may reduce transit times to Mars to 45 days. This proposal was put forward by Prof. Ryan Gosse.
How will nuclear propulsion work?
- Nuclear propulsion is based on two concepts Nuclear-Thermal Propulsion (NTP) and Nuclear-Electric Propulsion (NEP).
- The NTP system includes a nuclear reactor that will heat liquid hydrogen (LH2) propellant and turn it into ionized hydrogen gas (plasma) that will then be channeled through nozzles to generate thrust.
Nuclear Thermal Rocket
- A nuclear thermal rocket(NTR) is a type of thermal rocket where the heat from a nuclear reaction, often nuclear fission, replaces the chemical energy of the propellants in a chemical rocket.
- In an NTR, a working fluid, usually liquid hydrogen, is heated to a high temperature in a nuclear reactor and then expands through a rocket nozzle to create thrust. The external nuclear heat source theoretically allows a higher effective exhaust velocity and is expected to double or triple payload capacity compared to chemical propellants that store energy internally.
- NTRs have been proposed as a spacecraft propulsion technology, with the earliest ground tests occurring in 1955.
- Nuclear-powered thermal rockets are more effective than chemical thermal rockets, primarily because they can use low-molecular-mass propellants such as hydrogen.
Nuclear Electric Rocket
- A nuclear electric rocket(more properly nuclear electric propulsion) is a type of spacecraft propulsion system where thermal energy from a nuclear reactor is converted to electrical energy, which is used to drive an ion thruster or other electrical spacecraft propulsion
- The nuclear electric rocket terminology is slightly inconsistent, as technically the "rocket" part of the propulsion system is non-nuclear and could also be driven by solar panels. This is in contrast with a nuclear thermal rocket, which directly uses reactor heat to add energy to a working fluid, which is then expelled out of a rocket nozzle.
- The key elements to NEP are:
- A compact reactor core.
- An electric generator.
- A compact waste heat rejection system such as heat pipes.
- An electric power conditioning and distribution system.
- Electrically powered spacecraft propulsion.
Cryogenic Engine: https://www.iasgyan.in/blogs/cryogenic-engine
Basics of Missiles: https://www.iasgyan.in/blogs/the-basics-of-missiles
Nuclear Fission and Fusion: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/nuclear-fusion-and-fission