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Space Science

New Nuclear-powered Spaceship Design Revealed 285

Iddo Genuth writes "A U.S. based company introduced an innovative propulsion system that could significantly shorten round trips from Earth to Mars (from two years to only six months) and enable future spaceships to reach Jupiter after one year of space traveling. The system, which may dramatically affect interplanetary space travel is called the Miniature Magnetic Orion (Mini-Mag Orion for short), and is an optimization of the 1958 Orion interplanetary propulsion concept."
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New Nuclear-powered Spaceship Design Revealed

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  • by cduffy ( 652 ) <> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:56PM (#20691861)
    That's unfair. Gibson's "design" was loose speculation, whereas hard math has been done both on the original Orion and on this potential improvement.

    Certainly, neither of them has existed in practice -- but one was wild speculation, whereas the other had (and has) actual engineering.
  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:02PM (#20691915)
    A treaty is only as good as the signatories. There is no particular reason why the signatories couldn't write and sign a new treaty that just specified that there were to be no nuclear powered satellites in orbit or nuclear weapons in space.

    As that is more or less the intent. A spaceship that was nuclear powered would really only be an issue if it was allowed to orbit the earth long enough to fall out of orbit.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:18PM (#20692033)
    How do deal with all those explosions in your car engine?
  • by sssssss27 ( 1117705 ) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:32PM (#20692163)
    What's the difference? An internal combustion engine is coupled directly from the explosion all the way to the road, well at least in a manual car. The reason you don't feel each explosion though is that instead of using one big one there are thousands of tiny ones so it seems like a smooth motion.
  • Re:Wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:04AM (#20692395)
    Orion operates by exploding a weapon against a thrust plate, so it really qualifies as a weapon, which is at least one reason Orion was cancelled. I'm not sure how the treaty applies to space-based reactors, but theres definitely a large difference between an RTG and reactor as well.
  • Re:hopefully (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:09AM (#20692435)
    What makes you think the photonic drive wouldn't be able to slow down? Does the drive not work if you flip the ship in the opposite direction?
  • Re:hopefully (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:49AM (#20692943)
    I seriously hope they never actually taught that to you in school. Because if they did, your teacher should be fired.
  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Friday September 21, 2007 @02:45AM (#20693219) Homepage

    First off, I am not a rocket scientist, but I am studying for a BS in Aerospace Engineering.

    At what level? A sophmore in high school? (Translated: I love how people wave about unrelated credentials as if it gives weight to what they are talking about.)

    How exactly is this supposed to reduce travel time? Current lengths of travel are not due to a lack of available thrust or due to amount of fuel available but rather the path taken to reach the destination.

    Half true at best - because the current travel lengths are a product of the low amounts of Delta-V available. (And acceleration is itself a product of fuel and thrust.)

    Currently in order to travel to say Mars Hohman transfers are often used.

    Duh! Because they are low energy orbits.

    These paths and others like them take a certain amount of time to complete, and stronger engines or more available Delta-V allow only for more instantaneous entrances of the transfers or more allowed change in course once at the ship's destination.
    Another half truth - what you say is only true below a certain level of Delta-V. Once you get above that level, you simply proceed to your destination by a more direct path.

    In order to reduce time traveled a different orbital mechanic is needed. Even if a ship were to travel in a straight line toward a destination at a rapid enough speed that it would not have to meet up with it too much further along in its orbit it would have to be able to kill relative speed quickly enough to enter a capture orbit.

    Duh. Anyone who read Heinlein as a ten year old knows this.
  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Friday September 21, 2007 @02:51AM (#20693261) Homepage

    It's not a totally unreasonable idea

    So long as you don't look too hard at the specs on the unobtanium reactors used to power the whole thing.
  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) * on Friday September 21, 2007 @03:06AM (#20693339) Journal
    There's a whole planet spread out in pieces between Mars and Jupiter. Should be a few lumps of sub-critical mass in there you can mine.

    I kind of agree, kind of disagree with your assertion about the reasons why people would go into space. Right-wing? I don't think so, necessarily -- unless your definition of right wing means people who are most easily influenced. Your equation is cogent but your coefficients are wrong, I think.

    It isn't right-wing so much, I'd say rather that it's the category of people who are capable of being inspired by an inspirational leader. Kennedy wasn't right-wing, but he effected the space program as a reaction to the Soviet space successes (ok, the Soviet Union was slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun, despite their bolshie-leftie origins. You score a point on that one).

    The point is you need a critical mass who sense a need, and an inspirational and visionary leader as an ignition source in an environment of social awareness heightened enough to form a response. I'd put my money behind the one with the best rhetoric.

    Or how about this? Find a way to determine that the stone in the centre of Mecca is chemically identical to a rock in the Asteroid Belt, and you'll have millions of people with a new interest in recapturing the scientific advantage they had a few hundred years ago.

    Ok, I think I need to go home now and pop a couple of tinnies before my metaphors get any more mixed...

  • by donaldm ( 919619 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @03:36AM (#20693481)
    Even if this craft can reach speeds of 10% the speed of light we would still be limited to interplanetary exploration and exploitation (human nature dictates this). As far as interstellar travel goes it would still take about 45 years to send a spacecraft to the nearest star, not to mention the 4.5 year transmission delay. Still interplanetary travel is a big breakthrough if this article can be believed.

    The real breakthrough would be an interstellar spacecraft (the realm of Science Fiction at the moment) and this would really open up our galaxy, however a person would have to live for thousands of years to visit each solar system in our galaxy for just one day even assuming travel between each solar system is almost instantaneous. Think "Star gate technology. Well I did say in the realm of Science Fiction :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @06:22AM (#20694161)
    We have broken every treaty we have ever signed. Treaties don't apply to the good ol' US of A.

    If we want anything, we grab it, and kill whoever gets in the way.

    We're the GOOD guys. Everyone else is shit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @06:40AM (#20694233)
    A policy of going to the moon then further makes sense with this technology, because you can build a reusable engine for the trip. As long as the engineering solid, it should last for a long time, and be adaptable. Plus a short trip to the moon is a good way to test it for a much more challenging journey.

    Its about time they pulled out Orion. Its a solid idea that's worth a try and will hopefully lead to the first true (and permanent effectively) manned interplanetary spacecraft.

    But hey, a robotic version would be a good idea as a preliminary test. Particularly as a reusable cargo vessel in future. We may need a lot of them.
  • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @07:34AM (#20694433) Journal

    A hammer can be either a weapon or a tool.
    And, while I'd object to a ban on hammers in general, I wouldn't object to a ban on people swinging hammers within a foot of my face. Scale this up by a few orders of magnitude, and you've got nuclear arms limitation treaties.
  • Re:hopefully (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @07:35AM (#20694439)
    Um, no privileged frame of reference...
  • by WED Fan ( 911325 ) <akahige.trashmail@net> on Friday September 21, 2007 @09:53AM (#20695609) Homepage Journal

    The solar system is a big enough place for exploitation, and when we're done with the planets and their moons we can look at the Kuiper belt. That should keep us busy for the next couple of centuries...

    And the President said, "Lewis, Clark, I want you to walk around the block of the White House, its plenty big, and there's probably a lot for you to see. When you're done with that, check out Virginia. Once that is done, I want a complete survey of everything east of the Mississippi. That should keep us busy for a century."

    Lewis replied, "What about the vast unexplored reaches of the west?"

    To which the President slammed his fist into the desk, "Slow down, Sparky, that would take lots of money that would be better spent on the vast wasteland of New Jersey. And, it would take a long time and nothing good would come of it, I'm sure. And, it would take you forever to get the results back to us. And, you'd smell when you got back. Hell, Clark smells already. Now, you guys do as I told you, none of that 'Vast Vision' stuff."

    Knowing they were beat, Lewis and Clark resigned themselves to taking a walk around the block.

    "Besides," the President said, "When you finish up, you can both do commercials for Lost Horizon Airlines."

    Hey, why does exploration have to be serial?

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:00PM (#20697451)
    And the President said, "Lewis, Clark, I want you to go explore the moon. The country needs inspiration and I am going to provide it for them"

    Lewis replied, "But, sir we have no way to get to the moon. Why don't we explore all that land out west that we just purchased. Few if any european has ever seen it. Meanwhile we can learn more about the moon with new telescopes, which will make us more prepared if we ever do go there."

    To which the president slammed his fist into the desk, "You have no vision! Besides, building telescopes and taking long trips like that would actually cost real money. I want you to work on some inexpensive pipe-dream that sounds good in political speeches, feasibility be damned."

    Knowing they were beat, Lewis and Clark resigned themselves to designing successively large cannons. The never reached the moon, and the midwest filled out slowly, but few ever crossed the rockies, much to the delight of the native tribes, who were successful in fighting off the settlers for quite some time. Until the large cannons came of course :)

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.