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(Popular Mechanics)   Pentagon to build a nuclear teakettle rocket within 4 years   (popularmechanics.com) divider line
    More: Cool, Rocket, Uranium, Spacecraft propulsion, Nuclear power, Enriched uranium, Nuclear weapon, Demonstration Rocket, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency  
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958 clicks; posted to STEM » on 17 Apr 2021 at 3:46 PM (3 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



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View Voting Results: Smartest and Funniest
 
2021-04-17 3:59:07 PM  
Funny, I just watched the launch of Pathfinder in For All Mankind today.
 
2021-04-17 4:03:35 PM  
Earlier this week, DARPA announced it picked General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin to build DRACO. The goal is to send DRACO into low-Earth orbit in 2025.

So it's going to be another paper rocket, with Lockheed Martin handling the money burning and Blue Origin contributing their expertise in Powerpoint and empty promises?
 
2021-04-17 4:12:14 PM  

Professor Science: Earlier this week, DARPA announced it picked General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin to build DRACO. The goal is to send DRACO into low-Earth orbit in 2025.

So it's going to be another paper rocket, with Lockheed Martin handling the money burning and Blue Origin contributing their expertise in Powerpoint and empty promises?


More than likely. And the budget will go over by at least a factor of 10, both in money and time needed to complete it anywhere within shouting distance of specs. And even then it will need years of "fixes" to actually work (and all because they involved Lockheed Martin Government-Bribery Corporation).
 
2021-04-17 4:24:34 PM  
Pop Mech and Pop Sci have been propaganda spigots for decades.

Did anyone notice this link in the middle of TFA:
"➡ You love nuclear. So do we. Let's nerd out over nuclear together."

/FYI, I don't love nuclear
 
2021-04-17 4:43:21 PM  
How is re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, and then landing, possible with this? Safe blast off and ascent: good chance of success; safe landing: questionable. What mission could it be readied for? Go faster to the moon? Why? Why go at all anymore?
 
2021-04-17 4:51:11 PM  

MellowMauiMan: How is re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, and then landing, possible with this? Safe blast off and ascent: good chance of success; safe landing: questionable. What mission could it be readied for? Go faster to the moon? Why? Why go at all anymore?


A moonbase is the best stopping point for refueling and resupply for long duration interplanetary missions with reusable vehicles constructed in space. You don't want a space-built craft having to deal with Earth gravity well if you can avoid it. We\re not anywhere near being ready for that yet, but to get there you need to build the tools first; this is one of those tools.
 
2021-04-17 4:59:00 PM  
FTFA:

"Previously, the prospect of a nuclear-powered spacecraft exploding during takeoff and scattering dangerously radioactive materials across the U.S.-or worse, some other country-made nuclear propulsion untenable. However, modern designs rely on safer, low-enriched uranium, which cannot be converted into a weapon if it falls into the wrong hands. The uranium would also not be radioactive during takeoff, the reactor only switched on when DRACO is safely in space. DRACO will also operate so far out in space that even if it does fall out of orbit it will take so long the radioactivity will have decayed."

... Someone get Popular Mechanics a nuclear physics primer, STAT!
 
2021-04-17 5:01:17 PM  

ClavellBCMI: Professor Science: Earlier this week, DARPA announced it picked General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin to build DRACO. The goal is to send DRACO into low-Earth orbit in 2025.

So it's going to be another paper rocket, with Lockheed Martin handling the money burning and Blue Origin contributing their expertise in Powerpoint and empty promises?

More than likely. And the budget will go over by at least a factor of 10, both in money and time needed to complete it anywhere within shouting distance of specs. And even then it will need years of "fixes" to actually work (and all because they involved Lockheed Martin Government-Bribery Corporation).


Could'a been worse.  They could'a picked Boeing.  At least the Skunk Works hasn't sunk to *that* level.
 
2021-04-17 5:13:23 PM  

ClavellBCMI: Professor Science: Earlier this week, DARPA announced it picked General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin to build DRACO. The goal is to send DRACO into low-Earth orbit in 2025.

So it's going to be another paper rocket, with Lockheed Martin handling the money burning and Blue Origin contributing their expertise in Powerpoint and empty promises?

More than likely. And the budget will go over by at least a factor of 10, both in money and time needed to complete it anywhere within shouting distance of specs. And even then it will need years of "fixes" to actually work (and all because they involved Lockheed Martin Government-Bribery Corporation).


I'm not sure DARPA funding works like that.  It probably depends on the technology level of the project.
 
2021-04-17 5:15:13 PM  

KiltedBastich: MellowMauiMan: How is re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, and then landing, possible with this? Safe blast off and ascent: good chance of success; safe landing: questionable. What mission could it be readied for? Go faster to the moon? Why? Why go at all anymore?

A moonbase is the best stopping point for refueling and resupply for long duration interplanetary missions with reusable vehicles constructed in space. You don't want a space-built craft having to deal with Earth gravity well if you can avoid it. We\re not anywhere near being ready for that yet, but to get there you need to build the tools first; this is one of those tools.


And, to amplify, in case it wasn't clear - this thing will not take off under its own power.  The major subassemblies will be assembled in orbit.  It will never re-enter Earth's atmosphere or land.  Crew will shuttle up from Earth's surface on a conventional craft like Crew Dragon, Starship, or Starliner (if/when...), transfer to it, then use the NTP drive to get where they're going fast enough to cut down on the crew's radiation exposure and deleterious effects on their health from prolonged living in microgravity, and with enough cargo capacity to make it worthwhile, taking stuff along to leave a foothold somewhere, bringing stuff back for scientific or commercial purposes, etc.  With a nuclear drive, you should even be able to take along a chemically powered daughter craft to land somewhere and return to the orbiting main ship.

The science and engineering is relatively straightforward.  If we're going any farther out into the solar system than Luna, we really need some form of nuclear drive.  So the question becomes - *Should* we be going out into the Solar System?  This has been argued and debated since before Sputnik I.  For myself, that is a settled question and the answer is obvious, but I realize that not everyone feels the same.  I'll just close by borrowing some words from Larry Niven:

Excerpted from 'At the Bottom of a Hole', by Larry Niven (1966)

(conversation between Lit Schaeffer, Belter, and Lucas Garner, Earther, ARM):

"Luke, why do want to go down there?  What could you possibly want from Mars?"

"Abstract knowledge."

"For what?"

"Lit, you amaze me.  Why did Earth go to space in the first place, it not for abstract knowledge?"

Words crowded over each other to reach Lit's mouth.  They jammed in his throat, and he was speechless.  He spread his hands, made frantic gestures, gulped twice, and said, "It's obvious!"

"Tell me slow.  I'm a little dense."

"There's everything in space.  Monopoles.  Metal.  Vacuum for the vacuum industries.  A place to build cheap without all kinds of bracing girders.  Controllable microgravity for people with weak hearts.  Room to test things that might blow up.  A place to learn physics where you can watch it happen.  Controlled environments --"

"Was it all that obvious before we got here?"

"Of course it was!"  Lit glared at his visitor.  The glare took in Garner's withered legs, his drooping, mottled, hairless skin, the decades that showed in his eyes -- and Lit remembered his visitor's age.  "... Wasn't it?"
 
2021-04-17 5:36:27 PM  

MellowMauiMan: How is re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, and then landing, possible with this? Safe blast off and ascent: good chance of success; safe landing: questionable. What mission could it be readied for? Go faster to the moon? Why? Why go at all anymore?


Such a spacecraft would be put into a stable orbit and the fuel left to decay. In the case of unexpected re-entry, the fuel is sufficiently protected to survive intact and can be recovered (or left at the bottom of the ocean if appropriate).  It is not intended to return to Earth.

The advantage is that it's twice as fuel efficient as conventional rocket propulsion which is huge. This means faster trips, more flexibility, etc. It would be extremely useful for something like sending humans (or other large payloads) to Mars.
 
2021-04-17 5:38:20 PM  
Regarding that whole nuclear powered rocket thing.....

The Lost Missile 1958 movie trailer
Youtube B5CUkynF5L8
 
2021-04-17 5:42:57 PM  
Launching that much uranium? Not likely.

This idea has been around since the 1950s. The technology has been around for decades as well. The reason we never did it was because of the risk should the rocket not reach orbit.

It's a 2-day trip to the Moon using a chemical rocket. Why do we need to go faster?

This might be useful for a trip to Titan or Europa, but not for the Moon. We're decades from needing such a rocket.

/It would probably hit a Starlink satellite at some point.
 
2021-04-17 5:43:00 PM  

Pointy Tail of Satan: Regarding that whole nuclear powered rocket thing.....

[Youtube-video https://www.youtube.com/embed/B5CUkynF​5L8]


I actually watched that movie, because I have a thing for really cheesy SciFi from the 50's.

It was ...  just ...  wow.

(Check out 'Devil Girl From Mars' sometime.  And 'Project Moonbase', from 1950?  1953?  proved to be a surprise - the screenplay was written by Robert A. Heinlein.  And there was some recognizable bits of Heinlein still discernible in the finished film.  Though I think his stuff from that era holds up better in print than it does on the screen.)
 
2021-04-17 5:44:22 PM  
DRACO sounds like the evil organization in a James Bond movie.
 
2021-04-17 6:02:07 PM  

MellowMauiMan: How is re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, and then landing, possible with this?


It's not intended to return. It exists to do the heavy lifting and then be disposed.
 
2021-04-17 6:37:32 PM  

Nicholas D. Wolfwood: ... Someone get Popular Mechanics a nuclear physics primer, STAT!


im glad im not the only person who flinched when i read that lol
 
2021-04-17 6:38:42 PM  

dryknife: DRACO sounds like the evil organization in a James Bond movie.


it sounds like they're wrapping themselves in a pretzel trying to get an acronym that makes their pie in the sky project sound like "dragon" the rocket that works.
 
2021-04-17 6:41:06 PM  

dryknife: DRACO sounds like the evil organization in a James Bond movie.


Nope.

DRACO - The Most Badass Monster Bush Plane EVER!
Youtube PqhI4MeCn1c
 
2021-04-17 6:41:34 PM  

falkone32: MellowMauiMan: How is re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, and then landing, possible with this? Safe blast off and ascent: good chance of success; safe landing: questionable. What mission could it be readied for? Go faster to the moon? Why? Why go at all anymore?

Such a spacecraft would be put into a stable orbit and the fuel left to decay. In the case of unexpected re-entry, the fuel is sufficiently protected to survive intact and can be recovered (or left at the bottom of the ocean if appropriate).  It is not intended to return to Earth.

The advantage is that it's twice as fuel efficient as conventional rocket propulsion which is huge. This means faster trips, more flexibility, etc. It would be extremely useful for something like sending humans (or other large payloads) to Mars.


i wouldnt hold my breath on that.  reentry shielding is heavy.  something that can take a landing impact is HEAVY AS HELL.
i'd bet if it misfires on launch or accidentally reenters it either breaks up and burns or craters and splatters.  both of which are failure modes classically known in nuclear engineering as "complete clusterfarks"
 
2021-04-17 6:44:00 PM  

oopsboom: dryknife: DRACO sounds like the evil organization in a James Bond movie.

it sounds like they're wrapping themselves in a pretzel trying to get an acronym that makes their pie in the sky project sound like "dragon" the rocket that works.


NERVA was a much cooler acronym. Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application - killed of in 1969, like so many other programs.
 
2021-04-17 6:55:34 PM  
Good. About damn time.
 
2021-04-17 7:27:54 PM  
Nuclear tea? That's going to be very hot. That ship could possibly end up anywhere.
 
2021-04-17 7:30:28 PM  
Fark user imageView Full Size
 
2021-04-17 7:38:55 PM  
Russell is intrigued.

Fark user imageView Full Size
 
2021-04-17 7:44:44 PM  

brainlordmesomorph: Pop Mech and Pop Sci have been propaganda spigots for decades.

Did anyone notice this link in the middle of TFA:
"➡ You love nuclear. So do we. Let's nerd out over nuclear together."

/FYI, I don't love nuclear


What? It works great until it leaks radiation and Godzilla attacks. I may have played too much early Sim City.
 
2021-04-17 9:24:22 PM  

austerity101: Russell is intrigued.

[Fark user image 425x235]


that takes so goddamn so long to research
/nothing is obscure
 
2021-04-17 9:39:21 PM  

oopsboom: falkone32: MellowMauiMan: How is re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, and then landing, possible with this? Safe blast off and ascent: good chance of success; safe landing: questionable. What mission could it be readied for? Go faster to the moon? Why? Why go at all anymore?

Such a spacecraft would be put into a stable orbit and the fuel left to decay. In the case of unexpected re-entry, the fuel is sufficiently protected to survive intact and can be recovered (or left at the bottom of the ocean if appropriate).  It is not intended to return to Earth.

The advantage is that it's twice as fuel efficient as conventional rocket propulsion which is huge. This means faster trips, more flexibility, etc. It would be extremely useful for something like sending humans (or other large payloads) to Mars.

i wouldnt hold my breath on that.  reentry shielding is heavy.  something that can take a landing impact is HEAVY AS HELL.
i'd bet if it misfires on launch or accidentally reenters it either breaks up and burns or craters and splatters.  both of which are failure modes classically known in nuclear engineering as "complete clusterfarks"


This isn't conjecture or even theory. We've been doing this for decades with RTGs. The fuel is in ceramic form to resist breaking into small particles and is isolated in modules surrounded by iridium, graphite shells, and carbon fiber.  It's not perfect but smart people work on this stuff and have accounted for burning, breaking up, and splattering. It's been designed and tested to survive everything from a launchpad explosion to a hard impact at terminal velocity.
 
2021-04-17 11:00:53 PM  
Hmm. For those thinking this is dangerous, look up the Orion drive (Project Orion). Wile E. Coyote territory.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proje​c​t_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)
 
2021-04-18 2:18:26 PM  
The uranium would also not be radioactive during takeoff, the reactor only switched on when DRACO is safely in space. DRACO will also operate so far out in space that even if it does fall out of orbit it will take so long the radioactivity will have decayed.

Oh, not for launch. So the cost of reaching orbit is to remain absolutely, utterly crippling.

I suppose it'll be helpful in moving around the tiny vehicles we're going to be sending up forever though.
 
2021-04-18 3:03:07 PM  

erik-k: The uranium would also not be radioactive during takeoff, the reactor only switched on when DRACO is safely in space. DRACO will also operate so far out in space that even if it does fall out of orbit it will take so long the radioactivity will have decayed.

Oh, not for launch. So the cost of reaching orbit is to remain absolutely, utterly crippling.

I suppose it'll be helpful in moving around the tiny vehicles we're going to be sending up forever though.


Well, we could build a load of these units and toss them into orbit in a single Orion launch. That would be more efficient.
 
2021-04-18 11:16:40 PM  

Pointy Tail of Satan: Regarding that whole nuclear powered rocket thing.....

[iFrame https://www.youtube.com/embed/B5CUkynF​5L8?autoplay=1&widget_referrer=https%3​A%2F%2Fwww.fark.com&start=0&enablejsap​i=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.fark.com&​widgetid=1]


I remember this movie. It reminds me of this:  
The Insane Doomsday Weapon That America Almost Built | Jalopnik Explains
Youtube H05NALoVFcA
 
2021-04-18 11:25:42 PM  
They're going to launch a nuclear reactor on a rocket? Good luck with that. "But they're safe" you say. True but irrelevant. The anti-nuclear crowd is going to blow a gasket. Something like this would be tied up in court for about the next 30 years.
 
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