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NASA Moon Space Transportation Science Technology

Pieces Coming Together For NASA's New Spacecraft 78

Matt_dk points out an update on the progress of development for NASA's Ares I launch rocket, excerpting: "NASA is using powerful computers and software programs to design the rocket that will carry crew and cargo to space after the space shuttle retires. But those computers will have their work checked the old-fashioned way with the first of several uncrewed demonstration launches beginning in 2009. Ares I-X, the first Ares I test rocket, will lift off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. in the summer of 2009. It will climb about 25 miles in a two-minute powered test of Ares I first stage performance and its first stage separation and parachute recovery system." Reader coondoggie notes that NASA is also looking further afield, putting out the call for ideas on moon colonization. They'll be offering a variety of grants for projects which facilitate human activities that are "not reliant on Earth's resources."
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Pieces Coming Together For NASA's New Spacecraft

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  • by ZosX ( 517789 ) <zosxaviusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday December 06, 2008 @10:41AM (#26012859) Homepage

    While the 20 some year old space shuttle (that was kind of funny, I mistyped it shittle the first time) ages not so gracefully, we need a replacement to move people and objects to the ISS. Obama is already talking about scaling back the most massive projects at NASA, and in today's econopolitical climate I doubt there is going to be a great deal of support behind new huge expensive rockets. For the amount of raw materials and fuel expended (yes, I know rockets can be relaunched) it doesn't strike me as a very efficient way to get into space. Where are the sleek little ships that we hop into and are in orbit in minutes? I know its science fiction (orbit takes a great deal of velocity and acceleration from 0 to such lofty speeds might take a bit of time), but we should be pouring a lot more of our money and time into finding better sources of energy and ways to harvest them. I mean, liquid fuel rockets are like whawt, 60-70 year old technology now? Nuclear technology....60 years roughly? All these advances happened at or near the end of World War II. Computers....oh wait...that was also about 60 some years ago. Sure every technology has been advanced, but when you look at the overall progress (transistors, notwithstanding) it has all been an evolution from these earlier examples, but nothing so revolutionary as they were in the first place. The combustion engine was developed over 100 years ago. Where is the Edison of the new age? Where is the Tesla of the 21st century? Could I be totally wrong in thinking that while our rate of knowledge is increasing at an exponential rate, our actual technology is increasing on a much, much flatter curve, if it is a curve at all.......?

  • by Meumeu ( 848638 ) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @12:03PM (#26013345)

    Also, its pretty ridiculous to say that anything with a transistor is "evolutionary" or that anything that can do math is "evolutionary".

    Of course it's evolutionnary, I mean a Core i7 is not that different from the Antikythera mechanism [wikipedia.org]...

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Saturday December 06, 2008 @06:55PM (#26015697) Journal
    Other than exploding a series of bombs under the rocket, how could nuclear be used as a propellant? Making steam from water?

    Yes, exactly. That's how most nuclear reactors work. When you get a stable chain reaction going, it generates a lot of heat. In a basic nuclear power plant, that heat is used (indirectly) to turn water into steam, which is used to turn turbines and generate electricity. Currently, the reactor is fueled with solid uranium pellets. The problem is, with solids, if you don't cool the reaction properly, the fuel gets so hot that it melts through the floor of the reactor. There is a gas, uranium hexafluoride, which is also radioactive. If you get the density of the gas right, it undergoes a chain reaction and generates heat. The bonus with using a gas is that by depressurizing it, you cause the reaction to stop. The hotter the gas gets, the more it wants to expand and the more it expands the slower the chain reactions. It becomes self regulating. It will never melt down because it is already a gas.

    Okay, so you take this Uranium hexafluoride, and put it into a silica glass chamber and you spin the gas like a mini tornado. This gives you the proper pressure. The silica glass is thick, but transparent to infrared, so the heat gets out but the gas stays in. You let water flow around the glass chamber and it becomes steam. The steam is ejected out the back of the rocket. The steam is never in contact with the uranium, so there is no radiation. The energy density is three to ten times what a chemical rocket can do.

    Google up nuclear light bulb rockets, and NERVA.

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