WEBSTER, Texas (Ad Astra Rocket Co. PR) — Ad Astra Rocket Company’s VASIMR® VX-200SS Plasma Rocket has completed 88 hours of continuous operation at 80 kW at the company’s Texas laboratory near Houston. In doing so, the company establishes a new high-power world endurance record in electric propulsion. The test also demonstrates the maturity of the VASIMR® engine technology as a competitive option for high-power in-space electric propulsion with either solar or nuclear electric power. Electric rockets operating above 50 kW/thruster are considered “high-power.”
Bob Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to develop a radiator-free engine (RFE) that could be used in nuclear electric and solar thermal electric propulsion systems.
“In the RFE, cold water propellant or hydrogen used as the heat rejection dump for a dynamic cycle heated by a nuclear reactor, enabling Carnot efficiencies as high as 0.79 for water or 0.99 for hydrogen,” the proposal’s technical abstract said. “Some of the propellant that is boiled or sublimated off is then sent to an electric propulsion system, which ejects it from the spacecraft at high velocities to produce thrust….
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate requested the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to convene an ad hoc committee to identify primary technical and programmatic challenges, merits, and risks for developing and demonstrating space nuclear propulsion technologies of interest to future exploration missions. The particular systems of interest were specified as nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric propulsion systems. The committee was also tasked with determining the key milestones, a top-level development and demonstration roadmap, and other missions that could be enabled by successful development of these systems.
WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) — Using nuclear propulsion technologies to support a human mission to Mars in 2039 will require NASA to pursue an aggressive and urgent technology development program, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
MEMORANDUM FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT THE SECRETARY OF STATE THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION THE SECRETARY OF ENERGY THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
SUBJECT: National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion
Section 1. Policy. The ability to use space nuclear power and propulsion (SNPP) systems safely, securely, and sustainably is vital to maintaining and advancing United States dominance and strategic leadership in space. SNPP systems include radioisotope power systems (RPSs) and fission reactors used for power or propulsion in spacecraft, rovers, and other surface elements. SNPP systems can allow operation of such elements in environments in which solar and chemical power are inadequate. They can produce more power at lower mass and volume compared to other energy sources, thereby enabling persistent presence and operations. SNPP systems also can shorten transit times for crewed and robotic spacecraft, thereby reducing radiation exposure in harsh space environments.
La Grange Park, Ill. (American Nuclear Society PR) — NASA aims to develop nuclear technologies for two space applications: propulsion and surface power. Both can make planned NASA missions to the moon more agile and more ambitious, and both are being developed with future crewed missions to Mars in mind. Like advanced reactors here on Earth, space nuclear technologies have an accelerated timeline for deployment in this decade.
NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) Phase II Award Amount: $500,000
SPEAR Probe – An Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration
Troy Howe Howe Industries LLC
Nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) systems have the potential to provide a very effective transit mechanism to celestial bodies outside of the realm of solar power, yet the heavy power source and massive radiators required to justify a reactor core often push NEP spacecraft towards very large masses and major missions.
NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months
SPEAR Probe – An Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration Troy Howe
Howe Industries LLC
Nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) systems have the potential to provide a very effective transit mechanism to celestial bodies outside of the realm of solar power, yet the heavy power source and massive radiators required to justify a reactor core often push NEP spacecraft towards very large masses and major missions. If the total mass of an NEP system could be reduced to levels that were able to be launched on smaller vehicles, these devices could deliver scientific payloads to anywhere in the solar system.