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NASA Chief talks about Project Prometheus


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#21 Godeskian

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Posted 19 February 2003 - 02:47 PM

AS a complete and utter aside,

anyone else see the topic and get reminded of the debate between O'Neil and carter on calling their ship the 'prometheus'?  :)

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#22 Corwin

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Posted 20 February 2003 - 02:37 AM

Thanks Tennyson!   I'd forgotten about NERVA and although I was aware of some research into xenon ion drives, I didn't have that much detail on it (just not enough time in the day to research every little thing I want to learn).

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#23 tennyson

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Posted 20 February 2003 - 07:58 AM

You're welcome Corwin. NASA has a project office in Pittsburgh, about 70 miles from where I am , that's tasked with developing the next generation of ion drive. As far as I could tell during thier talk at my university and from what I've read Xenon seems to be the ion drive fuel of choice, finding its way on Deep Space One and pretty much all of the proposed near future missions.
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#24 Woodmansee

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 11:44 PM

Prometheus as proposed is a nuclear electric propulsion, as Tennyson described, not nuclear thermal propulsion (as some may have speculated). Specifically Prometheus uses a nuclear reactor (two actually) powering a whole lot of ion thrusters.

For those concerned with safety, the nuclear reactors will be relatively low temperature using uranium. This makes it much safer in the event of a catastrophic launch failure than a plutonium core. The reactor wouldn't even be powered up until on orbit.

Once in space the radiation levels are not that high, although the electronics are kept at the other end of the ship. But the Van Allen belt of radiation around Jupiter is orders of magnitude higher than the radiation from the reactor and a significantly greater concern.

Paul


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