A new concept of a nuclear engine will speed up space flights at times
Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies has developed a safer and more efficient nuclear rocket engine concept that can significantly shorten long-distance space travel.
To date, chemical rockets have already approached their limit values, and electric propulsion systems have a weak thrust. Therefore, researchers are returning to the idea of nuclear energy as a more efficient and powerful option. Previous developments were discontinued due to the fact that during the operation of a nuclear reactor, radiation is emitted, which will harm the ship’s crew.
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However, engineers at Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies claim to have solved this problem by completely ceramic microencapsulation of quality low enriched uranium. The team used recycled raw materials from civilian facilities to produce such fuel. After enrichment by 5-20%, it was encapsulated in particles coated with zirconium carbide (ZrC).
This treatment makes the fuel more durable and allows it to be used at high operating temperatures, which not only improves engine safety, but also its thrust with specific impulse to levels that can usually be achieved using only highly enriched uranium. The team argues that such fuel can be produced in existing plants without the need for modernization.
According to the developers, the new concept of a nuclear engine will reduce the flight time from Earth to Mars to three months. The company plans to bring its technology to the commercial market and has already offered it to NASA, which has resumed research in this direction since March.