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NASA Space Science

Nuclear Rocket Petition On White House Website 205

RocketAcademy writes "A petition on the White House website is calling for the United States to rapidly develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine. Nuclear rockets are a promising technology, but unless NASA develops a deep-space exploration ship such as Johnson Space Center's Nautilus X, a nuclear rocket would be wasted. Launching nuclear rockets may pose regulatory and political problems as well. Practical applications may depend on mining uranium or thorium on the Moon."
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Nuclear Rocket Petition On White House Website

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  • Good and Bad (Score:4, Informative)

    by balsy2001 ( 941953 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @07:49PM (#42577759)
    Nuclear rockets have a much higher specific impulse than chemical rockets, which is what makes them attractive for space exploration (this is not the only thing to consider though). However launching them from earth would poses some risks. A failure on launch could result in releasing radioactive fission products over large areas. The US and USSR did a good bit of research on these decades ago. Some interesting info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_thermal_rocket [wikipedia.org].
  • Re:Good and Bad (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:00PM (#42577815)

    Both the US and the USSR have launched nuclear reactors into space (not just those radioisotope decay generators, real reactors). Some of them are still up there in graveyard orbits. Launching a nuclear rocket in a cold shutdown and only bringing it into full active state when safely above the atmosphere wouldn't be much different.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:26PM (#42577933)

    I could never understand people like you that seem to fear science. Why go about denying a possibly useful tool? Regulate it, keep it safe but never out right ban things that's just foolish.

  • Re:The original... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ken_g6 ( 775014 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:46PM (#42578043) Homepage

    The NERVA test engine is on display at Johnson Space Center, as I understand it.

    National Geographic confirms your understanding [nationalgeographic.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @09:02PM (#42578123)

    Being 40+ years out of date, I imagine they'll have to spend billions to repeat the original work, but I'd hope that the fact that we already built a working nuclear rocket would mean that developing a new one wouldn't be overwhelmingly difficult.

    If you hire big bloated corrupt incompetent defense contractors it is guaranteed to take longer than the original and costs BILLIONS more:

    1. [a] The Apollo capsule, recreated as Orion/MPCV is an example. Yeah, I know Orion is bigger, but the shape is the same (because that was supposed to save time and money by allowing them to re-use the original test and flight data). Some uniformed idiot (or drone working for one of the contractors) will point out that Orion seats 4 while Apollo seated 3 but there are some facts to consider: As part of Constellation, Orion was supposed to carry a crew of 6, which 40 years of progress should have enabled (Remember: the massive power-hungry avionics can now run on a small battery and be the size of an Android Tablet) but apparently today's Lockheed is less capable than NorthAmerican was 40 years ago. One Apollo capsule rolled-out to the pad with seats for 5 (and blueprints of NorthAmerican's Apollo show it was capable of fitting 6 ) ... google "Skylab Rescue Mission" and you'll probable stumble onto the details ..... the 5-seat rescue mission was not needed so it did not launch in that config but it was capable and the configuration was real.
    2. [b] The Saturn-IB, recreated as Ares-I is another example. Sure, replacing the 1st stage of 8 liquid engines with an nearly existing current tech shuttle SRB was a chore ..... but Von Braun's team studied the same basic idea in the 60's as an upgrade path of the smaller crew-launch Saturn (so the idea was not exotic and unstudied). Forty years of progress should have made this a no-brainer. The oft-cited excuse for cancellation: thrust oscillation was hardly an unexpected or misunderstood thing and turned-out to be less severe than critics predicted. The upper-stage of Ares-I was essentially a Saturn S-IVB (LOX/LH2, common-bulkhead single-engine design) using an updated version of the Apollo J-2 engine (designated J-2X). Boeing apparently was incapable of re-creating what NorthAmerican could do 40 years ago with the basic stage structure. Did we even get a boilerplate version of the stage for our tax dollars?
    3. [c] After billions of dollars and years of work the new J-2X engine (derived from the Apollo J-2) is still in development. In the Apollo era, by this point in the program the J-2 design was already flying .... and it was not derived from any previous engine

    Remember that all the above was in response to the destruction of Orbiter Columbia during reentry ten years ago. Oh, for Constellation haters: the Ares-I 1st stage now exists (ATK has test fired several of them and has essentially finished it .... they are just optimizing and characterizing now) and it will fly as part of the SLS system...... now if we just had an Orion and an upperstage with a J-2 derived engine......

    The nuclear engine is a great thing..... we developed it in the sixties and even ran them at a test site in the desert..... but if you hire some big aerospace corporation that has been sucking on the government teet for decades and is used to delivering defective garbage to the taxpayer, demanding more for that garbage than was originally bid, and being rewarded by being offered new projects ..... well you're just gonna spend billions and either get nothing or get junk. (the normal pattern is that you spend billions and years and then eventually cancel the program so the taxpayers get nothing for the money but a few desktop display models...... google X-20, X-33, X-38, OTV, NASP, A-12 ....)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @09:21PM (#42578209)

    Those petitions are fun and the W.H. response to the Death Star petition was actually funny...... but ...... the real point of the petitions was to fool the Presidents young internet-active "social media" addicts that he was one of them and was listening to them.

    He probably never sees most..... and the few that he sees are probably presented to him so he can laugh at how stupid his followers are. The punch line on this joke will hit in 25 years when his by-then grown-up supporters realize that the TRILLIONS of dollars of new debt he heaped upon them and their kids has made them the 1st generation of Americans ever to be so abused by their predecessors that they will spend their entire working lives paying the interest on the maxed-out national credit card. They will have a lower standard of living than their parents ..... and Social Security and Medicare (which those people will have payed into their entire working lives) will have collapsed and will provide them nothing or next-to-nothing. Those trillions of dollars did not build a new 21st century power grid, or provide national high-speed rail service, or national fiber optic internet service, or do a massive upgrade in other infrastructure like repair of all our old bridges..... it mostly went to things like supporting the pensions of the unions who supported Obama, expanding the food stamps program to sign-up as many people as possible, etc. Most of the "green energy" money "invested" went to businesses owned by Obama campaign contributors, many of who pocketed the cash and then shuttered those "businesses"

  • by SomeKDEUser ( 1243392 ) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:03PM (#42578697)

    No, it may also mean developing nuclear power more, or imposing efficiency standards on wares. Le's talk about standards.

    As a European, one of the stricking thing about America is the absolutely dismal standards in housing construction, household applicances, cars, etc. Sure, things are a bit cheaper, but the TCO of all those things is really bad compared to euro stuff. It seems people only look at the sticker price, and don't think about the costs down the road.

    So in fact, in the US there is quite a margin to do something significant, now, and have everyone be richer in the medium term from lower energy bills, less replacing stuff, and who knows? less fat as a side effect from enjoying cooking with appliances that don't suck.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:20PM (#42578775)

    the reason this hasn't been developed is the united nations has a traty banning nuclear weapons in space of which the usa signed.
    its why the orion space craft that basically had nuclear explosions out its butt to move it were scrapped.

    move along nut bars next try

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @12:17AM (#42579027)

    Hmm, ion engine Isp of 20000, say. Thrust of 10 newtons. All-up spacecraft mass of 75 tons.

    Time to escape speed from LEO, about 22 months.

    NERVA, Isp = 800, say. Thrust of 300,000 newtons. All-up spacecraft mass of 100 tons.

    Time to escape speed from LEO, about 18 MINUTES.

    NERVA isn't a replacement for an ion drive on a deep-space probe, it's a replacement for a chemical rocket on a (large) manned spacecraft going from LEO (or higher) to a similar orbit around the moon/mars/venus/wherever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @07:11AM (#42580487)

    Oh dear, another one of these.

    No, the United States of America is a democratic republic(started as a republic, but the 17th Amendment, including how states, which are sovereign entities and thus equal to the national government, hold referendums and such).

    The USA is a democracy [wikipedia.org] by definition. Basing its legitimacy off of a constitution makes it a republic [wikipedia.org]. Commonly seen as republics are also oligarchies, constitutional monarchies, elective monarchies (see Malaysia) and often in general aristocracies.

    We elect representatives, who hold authority to make governmental decisions on out behalf. It is a generally held, but false belief that the US is a democracy; democracies are a farce, at best(read Federalist number 10).

    Let's ignore the USA for a second, which democracies are a farce and in what context? Aren't there working half-direct democracies (e.g. Switzerland) and how were the Greek city-state democracies a farce?
    As for the Federalist Paper No. 10: I'm not a citizen of the USA, so why should I bother with a niche redefinition of a commonly used term, especially if it only applies to a vanishingly small fraction (1 out of many) of democracies and republics in history? Speak such that the world understands you!

    Authority and power are derived from the citizens of the US, but we allow our representatives make decisions that aren't strictly forbidden in the US Constitution, and to a lesser extent, federal/state laws(the US Constitution is the ultimate legal document in the entire US system of governments).

    So you have, just by putting together the definitions in the order you list them yourself, a democratic representative Republic. Plus a Federation [wikipedia.org].

    You've been modded correctly, consider this the flame you were baiting for.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?