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Space Transportation Science

Project Bifrost: (Fission) Rockets of the Future? 148

astroengine writes "Researchers from Icarus Interstellar Inc. and General Propulsion Science have announced their intention to pursue the development of Nuclear Thermal Rockets and other fission-based space technologies. The aim? To revolutionize space travel, ultimately paving the way to the goal of sending a probe to another star."
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Project Bifrost: (Fission) Rockets of the Future?

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  • Good luck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @05:35AM (#38772748)

    Anytime anyone even thinks about mixing "nuclear" and outer-space (even radioisotope generators as used on many space probes) all the anti-nuclear groups kick up a huge fuss.

    Unless this mob has something different they can use to convince the anti-nuclear mob that its safe, they will have a hard time actually launching anything without massive protest.

  • Car analogies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 21, 2012 @05:43AM (#38772774)

    Brad Appel of General Propulsion Sciences frames the situation in more familiar terms: "To look at it another way, imagine you are planning a road trip from New York to Los Angeles and back. Except, there are no gas stations along the way -- you need to pack all of the fuel along with you. Using a chemical rocket to send humans to Mars would be like making the road trip in a cement truck. You might barely make it, but it would be one enormous, inefficient, and expensive voyage. Using an NTR, however, would be more akin to taking a Prius. It'll make it there comfortably, and it can go a lot further too."

    A terrible car analogy quite worthy of Slashdot. Bravo.

  • Re:Good luck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by donscarletti ( 569232 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @06:10AM (#38772874)

    My opinion is if this thing blows up, it will kill the crew and pollute an area of space millions of kilometres from anything I personally give a shit about. This is pretty much the same end result as if a chemical rocket blows up. Sounds like a fantastic application for nuclear, makes good use of what nuclear is good at (fuel energy density) while minimising what it is bad at.

    I figure, presumably after the engine actually works and has been tested etc. we put this thing in orbit without any fuel, make sure it's an orbit that will stay stable for at least 20 years if something screws up. We then send up the fuel in small amounts, so if anything goes wrong, the amount of poisonous uranium or plutonium or whatever released is not going to kill whatever forest or reef or city etc it lands on.

    Then if something goes like really bad, we fire up the partially fueled engine and fly it into the sun. If not, we complete the mission.

  • Credibility (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Extremus ( 1043274 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @06:14AM (#38772894)

    It would be easier to believe in these guys if they provide more technical details in how they pretend to achieve fission propulsion. As it is mentioned in the article, this is not a new idea. Is there any new development that could cast new light on the problem of fission propulsion?

  • Re:Good luck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by donscarletti ( 569232 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @07:10AM (#38773102)

    From Wikipedia:

    Earth orbital speed: 29.78 km/s

    Sun's escape velocity at Earth (42.1 km/s)

    Thus, the delta V to completely de-orbit from Earth's orbit is far lower than to escape the solar system. After de-orbiting, hitting the sun is quite easy, it just will tend to fall in.

  • Re:Good luck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Saturday January 21, 2012 @09:59AM (#38773548)

    Nearest Star = 4.2 light years. At the moderate speeds we would be able to generate to accelerate, but then an equal amount of fuel to decelerate to enter orbit around such a star in time measured in something larger than 10s of thousands of years at survivable speeds that don't erode the probe down from "plasma erosion" like you have with a plasma jet cutting machine.

    Helium, Hydrogen and Protons and electrons hitting any metal or ceramic surface at huge speeds eventually cut through, even if only in thousands or tens of thousands of years.

    A signal back from the probe would then take 4.2 light years to reach back to earth......if it didn't hit the smallest little rock or ice chunk along the way, which is a real undetectable possibility, and at the high speeds it takes, those would be fatal.

    I understand the thrill of the thought process and the income if you are on the program and getting paid.

    As a taxpayer, it leaves me as cold as intersteller space.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.