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Space & Astronomy

Firm invents nuclear thermal propulsion engine

October 27, 2020 | Comment icon 5 comments

Is this the future of spacecraft propulsion ? Image Credit: USNC-Tech
A new type of propulsion system is being developed that could significantly reduce the time it takes to reach Mars.
The brainchild of Seattle-based USNC-Tech (Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies), this new Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) engine could revolutionize space travel in the not-too-distant future.

According to the company, the new engine - which is still at the concept stage - is far more efficient than chemical rockets and could make it possible to reach Mars within as little as three months.

The new engine will run on fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel which is itself based on high-assay low-enriched uranium derived from reprocessed civilian nuclear fuel which has been enriched to between 5 and 20 percent.
USNC-Tech maintains that the fuel is more rugged and can operate at higher temperatures than conventional nuclear fuels, leading to a safer reactor design and higher thrust.

It can also be manufactured using existing supply chains and manufacturing plants.

According to reports, NASA has been provided with the details of the new engine, however it remains to be seen whether it will fund further development of the technology.

Suffice to say, reducing the Mars travel time to a mere three months is certainly an exciting prospect.

Source: Slashgear | Comments (5)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Jon the frog 1 year ago
Nice to see new concept for nuclear propulsion. Would be cool if they can go to testing soon.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Rolci 1 year ago
The rocket principle still the best humanity has to offer in 2020 after hundreds of thouands of years spent using our current brain size as Homo Sapiens. It is official: all hope is lost.
Comment icon #3 Posted by RoofGardener 1 year ago
Oh I don't know: either you have thrust, or you somehow 'pull' your way along, or you teleport. We've not really improved on the wheel for thousands of years. Should we give up all hope on THAT basis as well ?  
Comment icon #4 Posted by tortugabob 1 year ago
If the propulsion system ignites hydrogen with the heat generated from a nuclear reactor it's not new or revolutionary. The government was testing this back in the late 70s and had a fully functioning rocket motor.
Comment icon #5 Posted by J-Man V 1 year ago
I've always thought why doesn't NASA dust off and upgrade the old NERVA program. It's good to see these various civilian companies developing new nuclear engines. It's going to take government agencies and civilian companies working together to get us out into the solar system.

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