Recently, more and more often we write about new, innovative drive designs, which are designed to accelerate the journey through space. A new idea has just emerged, and that is the concept of a nuclear rocket engine. Although it is not an absolute novelty, because such projects were already developed in the 1940s, we did not have materials that could withstand such temperatures and overloads.
Now the situation has completely changed. Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation has prepared a project for NASA to build a thermal nuclear propulsion. The engine is expected to use nuclear micro-explosions to propel the spacecraft. BlueTech is a nuclear reactor in the engine that is used to heat liquid hydrogen. The high temperature causes the fuel to expand, and then it is ejected at great speed from the nozzles, resulting in a powerful thrust.
Scientists from the USNC have calculated that the trip to Mars with the help of the nuclear engine they are building will be shortened to just 3 months. Interestingly, it is very easy and cheap to produce, so you can equip any space vehicle with such a system. Engineers explain that in the 1940s, when the designs of such engines were created, not only were such structures too heavy, but in addition, it was not possible to control the thrust vector, which made the engines unusable.
It turns out, however, that all these problems have now been overcome, and it is possible to finally build such drives and start testing in space. NASA recently announced that vehicles are to be equipped with the first such units in the second half of the 1920s. Regardless of NASA, the US military is working on nuclear propulsion. The first vehicles with such a propulsion will probably appear in orbit within the next two years.
Recently, SpaceX won a tender to launch a mysterious vehicle into orbit that is to be larger than the X-37B mini-shuttle. It is very likely that it may be an experimental vehicle that will be equipped with a nuclear thermal drive. Perhaps after the implementation of this project, we will learn a bit more about the tested technologies and plans related to their use.