Wednesday, June 30, 2010

U.S. Space Policy 2010

Here's a bit of reading material for you to go through. What peaked my interest is the section on Space Nuclear Power. Interesting change of thought that personally am all in favor of. It's about time we started implementing nuclear powered rockets for long duration missions.

The Commercial Space Guidelines are also of interest. :)


Bartacus said...

Re: space nuclear power

I'm not so sure. They're very careful to talk only about "power" as opposed to "propulsion." "Power" might simply mean improved RTGs...that's a long way from NERVA or a spaceborne nuclear reactor, which is what you'd need for a heavy-duty VASIMIR- or other ion-propulsaion drive.

Did you also notice that human space exploration is NOT included in the top-line priorities section?

We shall see what we shall see.


Douglas Mallette said...

Bartacus - Valid points.

I always wondered why they don't just launch a nuke reactor in inert parts, to be assembled and put online in orbit. It never need be on Earth as a whole unit.

Yes, I saw HSF isn't it's own bullet point, but it is passively mentioned in other sections.

Marcel F. Williams said...

While I'm a strong proponent of nuclear energy, I have some serious questions about its practicality and affordability.

The 39 day scenario to Mars requires about 100 tonnes of highly enriched uranium be placed into orbit per flight plus 476 tonnes of propellant just to transport 24 tonnes of payload and vehicle mass to Mars.

But 39 days is still a long time to be continuously exposed to galactic radiation. You're going to have to add at least another 500 to 1000 tonnes of mass shielding to protect astronaut's brains from being damaged from heavy nuclei. So the Vasimir will probably take nearly 80 to 120 days to get to Mars.

Then you'd have to figure out how to get the fuel to bring them back to Earth. Lightsails are far superior to nuclear transportation in space, IMO.

Anonymous said...

It's about time we got serious about Nuclear Thermal Rockets for anything beyond LEO.
Marcel: Those figures don't sound so hugh when compared to a chemical rocket. And the chemical rocket can't carry enough fuel to match the performance of an NTR.
Radiation shielding (water) is quite effective (and drinkable).