Nuclear Space Travel
Image Credit: Project Orion
Compared with the best chemical rockets, nuclear propulsion systems (NPS's) are more reliable and flexible for long-distance missions, and can achieve a desired space mission at a lower cost. The reason for these advantages in a nutshell is that NPS's can get "more miles per gallon" than chemical rockets.
For any space mission, basic questions must be answered:
1 - What is the destination?
2 - What is the trip time?
3 - Do we want to return?
4 - the mass of the payload we want to send there & bring back?
In chemical rocket engines such as the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), the chemical reaction between the hydrogen and oxygen releases heat which raises the combustion gases (steam and excess hydrogen gas) up to high temperatures (3000-4000 K). These hot gases are then accelerated through a thermodynamic nozzle, which converts thermal energy into kinetic energy, and hence provides thrust. The propellant and the heat source are one in the same.
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