“Russia will Shape the Future of Spaceflight”: Announces Nuclear Powered Reusable Rocket Programme

1 December 1967: The first ground experimental nuclear rocket engine (XE) assembly is shown here in “cold flow” configuration, as it makes a late evening arrival at Engine Test Stand No. 1 at the Nuclear Rocket Development Station in Jackass Flats, Nevada. The US nuclear rocket programme was shelved in the 1970s. Source Wikimedia

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Russia has just raised the stakes in the space race, by going public with a reusable commercial nuclear powered launch vehicle which has been under development for the last decade.

Russia says it’s going to beat Elon Musk and SpaceX’s ‘old tech’ with a nuclear rocket

Mike Wehner @MikeWehner
November 14th, 2018 at 2:36 PM

Elon Musk and SpaceX won’t be leading the reusable rocket space race long, at least not if Russia has anything to say about it. Russia’s Keldysh Research Center has been working on a reusable rocket solution for nearly a decade now, and now it’s ramping up the hype with a new concept video showing how its spacecraft works.

Speaking with reporters, Vladimir Koshlakov explained that Elon Musk and SpaceX pose no real threat to the group’s plans. Musk, Koshlakov says, is relying on technology that will soon be antiquated, while Russia is looking towards shaping the future of spaceflight.

Read more: https://bgr.com/2018/11/14/russia-nuke-rocket-spacex-rocket/

Using nuclear power in principle bypasses some of the problems plaguing reusable chemical rocket programmes; because of the far higher impulse of nuclear rockets, they can be built more robustly than reusable chemical rockets, which must be an exquisite compromise between weight and stress tolerance. The Russian plan calls for a reuse turnaround time of 48 hours.

The Russian plan for a nuclear powered launcher must be taken seriously. Russia has extensive experience with nuclear powered civilian vehicles, such as the Russian nuclear icebreaker fleet. Their nuclear powered cruise missile, a low flying stealth weapon with effectively unlimited range, sent shockwaves through the military community when President Putin revealed the new weapon last March.

A successful, low cost nuclear powered commercial launch vehicle would give Russia a dramatic lead in the race to commercialise space.

Cheaper access to space could also give the Russian military a substantial advantage over other countries, if they used that infrastructure to launch kinetic bombardment weapons into low Earth orbit.

A successful kinetic weapon programme could give an almost unassailable advantage to aggressors. A single special forces forward observer would have the capability to utterly destroy entire armoured columns, fleets of ships and large military bases within seconds of a kill decision, using a laser targeting device the size of a flashlight to direct the attack.

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November 15, 2018 7:42 pm

The Americans abandoned their nuclear rocket program as a result of nuclear disarmament treaties. What has changed that allows the Russians to do their own nuclear rockets?

Reply to  Hivemind
November 15, 2018 7:49 pm

Simple, it gave them the needed time to catch up.

As intended.

Reply to  tweak
November 16, 2018 9:45 am

And as we were warned.

Reply to  Hivemind
November 15, 2018 7:54 pm

Nothing has changed. Russia being Russia only signed the treaties to win over the world. In reality, they didn’t change all that much. Sure, they probably disposed of a few nuclear bombs but do you think a signature on a piece of paper is enough to stop Russia. Hint: no.

Fernando L.
Reply to  leowaj
November 16, 2018 2:54 am

Over 30 years ago the Russian elite realized communism was a dead end. This led to the chaotic fall of the Soviet Union, the emergence of the Yeltsin regime, and later Putin was picked to “put the house in order” and strengthen Russia to withstand what they thought was US and EU atempts to turn Russia into a satellite of an emerging unipolar US led empire.

Please note that I am pointing out what the Russian elites think. What I think, or what each of you think, isn’t Russian elite thinking. This elite is also convinced communism is garbage. So extrapolating Soviet aims and strategy to Russia under Putin is silly. Today’s Russia is capitalist but hasn’t completed the transition, the government has clear fascist tendencies, and it’s really busy trying to survive in the face of what it thinks is misguided US aggression. They are much more worried about Western Europe turning communist and attacking them, and are terrified of China.

The nuclear powered spaceship isn’t new, and they aren’t about to build one able to carry 100 ton payloads to Mars orbit for many years. So there’s no reason to fret.

Reply to  Fernando L.
November 16, 2018 6:22 am

If Russia wants to survive they need to convince their people to have babies. No amount of nuclear rockets or advanced weapons will overcome their demographic disaster.

Johnny Cuyana
Reply to  Fernando L.
November 19, 2018 4:54 am

Fernando, it’s the same old situation which Russia — and the rest of the world — has been “living” since the beginning of humanity: the choice between “centralized command and control govt” and that of a govt of, by and for the people.

In their current context, viz-a-viz primarily comrade Putin and his personal collection of oligarchs, the central command and control theme has dominated entirely. Their challenge — again, same as in the rest of the world — is once this type of govt is assumed, how does same, despite all such national “glories”, then ensure that the populace will be content with their assigned lot.

In this instance, Putin may be enhancing the prestige of his “nuclear space force”, but, he still has a stinking economy [almost entirely devoid of diversity], a dying Slavic demographic, generally poor education and health and an increasingly unhappy citizenry; where, typically, such is the bane of dictator types.

Putin, and, around the globe, many others like him, still have not learned: dictators generally sleep better when they do not do so much dictating. [Hmmm … maybe Putin knows this, but, his narcissism prevents him from an implementation of a “kinder and gentler” Vlad.]

Reply to  Hivemind
November 15, 2018 8:30 pm

what is your source for statement that US “abandoned their nuclear rocket program as a result of nuclear disarmament treaties”? The source in the picture caption above comment image) says that US abandoned program in 1973 due to lack of interest and discontinuation of funding. Nothing to do with disarmament treaties.

Little purpose is served in just making up assertions which are invalid.

Ian W
Reply to  Steve McIntyre
November 16, 2018 3:19 am

Why do you think the funding stopped Steve?
Two main sources, commercial and defense. If defense pulls the plug it would be called discontinuation of funding -commercial wouldn’t do it all on their own with a low risk alternative.

Reply to  Ian W
November 16, 2018 1:08 pm

Ian W,
“Why do you think the funding stopped Steve?”
It may have been that, America went in another direction.

Reply to  Steve McIntyre
November 16, 2018 4:06 am

Perhaps if NASA had spent the money they have squandered on climate research, to pursue their original aims we would not be looking at playing ketchup.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Brian BAKER
November 16, 2018 10:07 am

There really hasnt been much climate research per se despite the billions spent. They have a mission from Eurocentric neo marxbrother new worlders joined by Champagne soshulists to create doom scenarios. The only research they present is from 19th Century Tyndall and Arhenius.

Steve Piet
Reply to  Steve McIntyre
November 16, 2018 6:11 am

You are correct. The US nuclear rocket and US nuclear aircraft programs were killed decades ago and had nothing to do with US-USSR treaties.

The above blog has a serious error. When i traced closer to original source info, i learn that the Russians are working on a nuclear-powered interplanetary vehicle, not a nuclear-powered launch vehicle. Big difference in mission, technology, safety. (I’m a safety nuclear engineer.)

There are two reasons the Russians are probably doing this. First, we and they are closer to having missions that could use the technology. Meanwhile, the materials and robotics technology available to make a nuclear-power interplanetary vehicle is far better than it was in the 60s.

Reply to  Steve Piet
November 17, 2018 2:22 am

Thanks, I was trying to figure out exactly how a “reusable” launch vehicle would work. I had heard of the “bomb” type ones but I didn’t think they were reusable and an ion-drive couldn’t leave the ground.

Steve Taylor
Reply to  Steve McIntyre
November 16, 2018 7:00 am

There are at least two technologies here. NERVA and the tiny bomb powered Orion program. Orion WAS stopped because of issues of proliferation and arms reduction – the bomblets would have been extremely cheap to make, and you needed to make a a couple of thousand.

If we ever, god forbid, found the planet-killer on approach, one would hope we had enough time to build an Orion – its the only thing ever proposed with the acceleration necessary to get out in a reasonable timeframe

Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 12:05 am

Not abandoned apparently

“NASA Is Bringing Back Nuclear-Powered Rockets to Get to Mars”

February 15, 2018
In the race to land humans on Mars, NASA is blowing the cobwebs off a technology it shelved in the 1970s — nuclear-powered rockets.

Last year, NASA partnered with BWXT Nuclear Energy Inc. for an $18.8 million contract to design a reactor and develop fuel for use in a nuclear-thermal propulsion engine for deep-space travel. While that small start is a long way from the the heady days of the Space Race of the Cold War, it marks the U.S. return to an idea that is also being pursued by Russia and China.”


Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 12:05 am

The US nuclear powered aircraft development program was abandoned because of the successful development of ballistic missiles and because of perceived dangers.

old engineer
Reply to  DHR
November 17, 2018 1:20 pm

I.m sure those were two of the reasons. bBut, if I remember correctly, the main reason I heard while working at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in the mid 1960’s, was that they had figured out that the aircraft would have to have a takeoff weight of close to 1 million pounds, and they didn’t have need for an aircraft that big.

P&WA was developing the engine. (Take the burner section out of a jet engine and replace it with a heat exchanger that gets its heat from the reactor). Can’t remember if the engine was ever run that way, but I did see the engine with a burner configuration.

Anyway, it wasn’t long after the program was canceled that Pratt started working on their bid for the C-5 engines. As I remember, the C-5 was supposed to have a take off weight over 800,000 lbs.

Reply to  old engineer
November 21, 2018 9:39 am

I also heard that the Program was cancelled because a nuclear propulsion system would only be practical for aircraft of more than 1,000,000 pounds gross take-off weight, and no one would ever need an airplane that large. (Sort of like the idea that the world would only need ~5 mainframe computers.)

In addition, I’ve been tool, the working fluid was liquid sodium, and there were seriosu safety concerns that, in the event of an accident, liquid sodium would be being sprayed all over the area.

M__ S__
Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 1:36 am

Also, the graphite medium used to crack back then (in the 60’s). The Nerva program.

However, the US—I believed—abandoned their AVLIS efforts (refining uranium using lasers) when Russia dumped a bunch of weapons grade material on he market and drove down the price of material for reactors.

David Thompson
Reply to  M__ S__
November 16, 2018 6:53 am

At one point 10% of all US electricity was fueled by Soviet warheads. A series of nuclear accidents including TMI, watts bar, Chernobyl, and the last straw Fukushima, tanked the nuclear reactor and fuel market.

Now, the US is not enriching uranium at all and our gas centrifuge is on life-support as a small effort at ORNL. All that amounts to is maintaining a workforce that knows how to build and operate centrifuges and the infrastructure that is in place that will be needed when things recover.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  David Thompson
November 16, 2018 8:11 am

If they don’t want to enrich uranium, they can build CANDU reactors and have lots of electricity like Ontario.

BTW when the lights go off, head north where common sense survives in the snow.

Reply to  David Thompson
November 17, 2018 3:50 am

and the leftovers from that seem to have gone to usa DU weapons.
funny how thats considered ok?
I read that GE is about to turn turtle so the Japanese GE reactors might have some service contract issues too?

Dan Kurt
Reply to  ozspeaksup
November 17, 2018 8:48 am

re: “I read that GE is about to turn turtle so the Japanese GE reactors might have some service contract issues too?” oz

Thanks to bankruptcy laws the husk of GE, i.e. the useful remains of GE sans the debt, will be reborn as a “new” or “Borged” technologic entity. Service contracts will be secure as they have value after restructuring.

Dan Kurt

old white guy
Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 4:07 am

I hope the rockets work better than their first nuclear subs.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  old white guy
November 16, 2018 4:42 am

Or Chernobyl.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
November 16, 2018 5:20 am

Or Sellafield – the Windscale fire of 1957 exactly like Chernobyl. Classified to the ’90’s. No wonder the Brits had the special gear to send to the Chernoby effort.

David Thompson
Reply to  bonbon
November 16, 2018 7:01 am

Windscale and Chernobyl were not the same.

At windscale radiation damaged graphite moderator material caught fire. The ultimate cure was to reverse the flow of the cooling air so that all of the graphite could be periodically anealed by reactor heat. This same fix was applied to the X10 reactor which operated until 1963.

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  bonbon
November 17, 2018 12:42 am

Thompson – The Windscale/Sellafield fire was a consequence of using uranium metal fuel. They forgot that uranium, like magnesium, burns if it gets hot enough. A ruptured fuel canister started the fire. Although graphite will burn it is remarkably difficult to ignite when in the form of a solid block, and is thus unlikely to be a source of ignition.

Subsequent designs used uranium oxide to eliminate the fuel fire risk. However, they clad this in zirconium. They forgot that zirconium, like magnesium, burns if it gets hot enough. Oh boy.

Bryan A
Reply to  old white guy
November 16, 2018 10:08 am

Provided they don’t install their shielding backwards and Cook their Cosmonauts

Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 6:55 am

Since when did the Soviets honor any treaty that they signed?

Reply to  MarkW
November 16, 2018 4:38 pm

Why don’t you tell us markw

Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 8:34 am

Nuclear rocketry was vehemently opposed by the usual array of self-appointed “environmental” guardians.

Bryan A
Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 10:05 am

Is Russia

Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 12:50 pm

John F. Kennedy – Address on Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Michael of Oz
Reply to  Hivemind
November 16, 2018 3:43 pm

lets just see who was most innovative in breaking the agreements, the Russians, or the Americans.

Reply to  Michael of Oz
November 17, 2018 3:52 am


November 15, 2018 7:50 pm

Damn. If this actually works, it would overshadow Sputnik.
But, right now, it is vaporware.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 16, 2018 12:30 am

Nuclear cruise missile and nuclear rocket are the same technology except that one pumps compressed air into the reactor, and the other pumps liquid hydrogen into the reactor. If building the cruise missile, might as well build the rocket.

If the reactor achieves 1000°C exhaust (which is possible, but a big if), then the rocket exhaust velocity will be about 10 kilometers per second, in which case single stage to orbit and back again with payload being a substantial fraction of the rocket mass is easy.

If single stage to orbit and back again, re-usable is easy, whereupon the cost of putting a substantial amount of people and stuff in space, for example space marines, comes down to something affordable.

Reply to  jim of jim's blog
November 16, 2018 10:00 am

How frequently does the lining of the combustion chamber and nozzle have to be replaced?

Reply to  jim of jim's blog
November 17, 2018 2:28 am

How is carrying liquid hydrogen and heating it up more efficient than carrying liquid hydrogen and oxygen and burning it?

Reply to  ironargonaut
November 17, 2018 11:10 am

Remember, E=MV^2. If you can get a higher expellant velocity with a lower mass expellant, you gain propelling energy. That’s the theory of the Ion Rocket, very low mass expelled at a modest fraction of the speed of light.

Michael S. Kelly, LS, BSA, Ret.
Reply to  ironargonaut
November 18, 2018 7:40 pm

The exhaust velocity of heated hydrogen at a given temperature is much higher than that of the combustion products of hydrogen and oxygen at the same temperature: a factor of the square root of the ratio of molecular weights of oxygen/hydrogen combustion products to just hydrogen. And the mass of propellant required to provide a given vehicle velocity increment is related exponentially to the exhaust velocity. The ability to get 800 pound-seconds impulse out of a pound of propellant, as opposed to 452 pound seconds with oxygen/hydrogen (the SSME performance figure) means the difference between having to multistage a launch vehicle and being able to build, with very large structural and performance margins, a single-stage reusable vehicle. I’ve been in the space launch business for forty years, and I’m convinced that a chemically propelled single stage reusable launch vehicle operating from Earth is impossible. With nuclear propulsion, it isn’t.

Not that it’s a piece of cake, far from it. The US had a nuclear bomber program (Project Pluto), and actually flew the only aircraft ever to carry an operating nuclear reactor. It was the Convair NB-36H, which carried a 1 MW air-cooled nuclear reactor aloft. The cockpit was replaced by an 11 ton lead and rubber cocoon for the pilot, copilot, and two nuclear engineers. Even the windows were foot-thick lead glass. The reactor itself (which was never used propulsively) weighed 35,000 pounds. In over 200 flight-hours, it was demonstrated that the crew was safe from any radiation from the reactor, even in low-altitude runs. But that amount of shielding does put a bit of a crimp in the mass budget of a space launch vehicle.

Personally, I think it’s doable. But the video doesn’t show anything resembling a single stage reusable launch vehicle. So I wonder what all the hype is about.

If the US wasn’t so irrationally paranoid about anything nuclear, and Elon got his hands on nuclear technology, NASA would be out of business completely – at least out of the launch business, which they’re actually not in any more at all. They’re in the spend-the-taxpayers’-money-pretending-to-develop-a-launch-vehicle “business.” But I digress. Launch costs would drop below airline ticket costs. And, in fact, if anyone ever decided to develop a nuclear powered airliner, airline ticket prices would drop below bus ticket prices for the same route….that is, until someone developed The Big Bus.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 16, 2018 4:51 am

A nuclear cruise missile isn’t nuclear propelled, it just had a nuclear payload. Very different.

Nuclear propulsion doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. With rocket propulsion you need high, sustained specific impulse and thrust to weight. You won’t get that with nuclear.

Sounds like someone is blowing smoke.

Reply to  Mike
November 16, 2018 6:09 am

According to a NASA publication (https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19910017902.pdf) , nuclear propulsion technolgies (and in this case the NERVA program) has a potential of two to three times the specific impulse of chemical rockets.

At the closure of the NERVA program, Los Alamos had worked out and tested all of the necessary components of a nuclear powered rocket. The program was in a state such that they could have begun the work necessary to develop a commercially viable motor assembly. At the time, the various text motor platforms weren’t designed to operate in a self sustained vehicle. For instance, they still had control umbilicals and fuel lines. Similarly, they were designed to be fastened to a test harness and not a fuselage. These aren’t significant barriers though. They are engineering issues that are solvable and not terminal to the program.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 16, 2018 1:15 pm

Project Orion – The Atomic Bomb Powered Space Rocket

November 15, 2018 8:04 pm

c’mon folks!
What is this unicorn eating for breakfast?
Is the system employing electrical power using a tried and true nuclear heat source for a thremo electric energy source? Or maybe heat to power a turbine?
Is the system heating some fuel and ejecting it as in “rocket”?

Maybe some nuclear engineers here can postulate, but this “breaking news’ looks like it should be on a rag in the checkout counter line.

Gums opines…

Original Mike M
Reply to  Gums
November 15, 2018 9:16 pm

Nuclear steam punk?

Reply to  Original Mike M
November 16, 2018 8:05 am

Atom Punk. The 1950’s meets the 2050’s.

Like the Technology depicted in the Fallout games.


Reply to  Gums
November 16, 2018 8:02 am

Yeah, doesn’t figure. Only thing I can imagine is a thermal-nuke power source supplying electricity for a ion-powered drive. Good for unmanned, long distance trips, but nowhere near chemical thrust.

November 15, 2018 8:13 pm

I would have thought a simple rocket failure could be like a dirty bomb.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 15, 2018 9:57 pm

Yes I guess launch and trajectory could be well away from populated areas.

Crispin in waterloo
Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 16, 2018 8:20 am


Yeah…it could happened somewhere outside the environment.

Philip Schaeffer
Reply to  Crispin in waterloo
November 16, 2018 6:21 pm

😀 Clarke and Dawe!

“[Senator Collins:] It’s a great pleasure, thank you.

[Interviewer:] This ship that was involved in the incident off Western Australia this week…

[Senator Collins:] Yeah, the one the front fell off?

[Interviewer:] Yeah

[Senator Collins:] That’s not very typical, I’d like to make that point.

[Interviewer:] Well, how is it untypical?

[Senator Collins:] Well, there are a lot of these ships going around the world all the time, and very seldom does anything like this happen … I just don’t want people thinking that tankers aren’t safe.

[Interviewer:] Was this tanker safe?

[Senator Collins:] Well I was thinking more about the other ones…

[Interviewer:] The ones that are safe,,,

[Senator Collins:] Yeah,,, the ones the front doesn’t fall off.

[Interviewer:] Well, if this wasn’t safe, why did it have 80,000 tonnes of oil on it?

[Senator Collins:] Well, I’m not saying it wasn’t safe, it’s just perhaps not quite as safe as some of the other ones.

[Interviewer:] Why?

[Senator Collins:] Well, some of them are built so the front doesn’t fall off at all.

[Interviewer:] Wasn’t this built so the front wouldn’t fall off?

[Senator Collins:] Well, obviously not.

[Interviewer:] “How do you know?”

[Senator Collins:] Well, ‘cause the front fell off, and 20,000 tons of crude oil spilled into the sea, caught fire. It’s a bit of a give-away.” I would just like to make the point that that is not normal.

[Interviewer:] Well, what sort of standards are these oil tankers built to?

[Senator Collins:] Oh, very rigorous … maritime engineering standards.

[Interviewer:] What sort of things?

[Senator Collins:] Well the front’s not supposed to fall off, for a start.

[Interviewer:] And what other things?

[Senator Collins:] Well, there are … regulations governing the materials they can be made of

[Interviewer:] What materials?

[Senator Collins:] Well, Cardboard’s out

[Interviewer:] And?

[Senator Collins:] …No cardboard derivatives…

[Interviewer:] Like paper?

[Senator Collins:]. … No paper, no string, no cellotape. …

[Interviewer:] Rubber?

[Senator Collins:] No, rubber’s out .. Um, They’ve got to have a steering wheel. There’s a minimum crew requirement.”

[Interviewer:] What’s the minimum crew?

[Senator Collins:] Oh,… one, I suppose.

[Interviewer:] So, the allegations that they are just designed to carry as much oil a possible and to hell with the consequences, I mean that’s ludicrous…

[Senator Collins:] Ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous. These are very, very strong vessels

[Interviewer:] So what happened in this case?

[Senator Collins:] Well, the front fell off in this case by all means, but that’s very unusual.

[Interviewer:] But Senator Collins, why did the front bit fall off?

[Senator Collins:] Well, a wave hit it.

[Interviewer:] A wave hit it?

[Senator Collins:] A wave hit the ship.

[Interviewer:] Is that unusual? Source: LYBIO.net

[Senator Collins:] Oh, yeah… At sea? …Chance in a million.

[Interviewer:] So what do you do to protect the environment in cases like this?

[Senator Collins:] Well, the ship was towed outside the environment.

[Interviewer:] Into another environment….

[Senator Collins:] No, no, no. it’s been towed beyond the environment, it’s not in the environment

[Interviewer:] Yeah, but from one environment to another environment.

[Senator Collins:] No, it’s beyond the environment, it’s not in an environment. It has been towed beyond the environment.

[Interviewer:] Well, what’s out there?

[Senator Collins:] Nothing’s out there…

[Interviewer:] Well there must be something out there

[Senator Collins:] There is nothing out there… all there is …. is sea …and birds ….and fish

[Interviewer:] And?

[Senator Collins:] And 20,000 tons of crude oil

[Interviewer:] And what else?

[Senator Collins:] And a fire

[Interviewer:] And anything else?

[Senator Collins:] And the part of the ship that the front fell off, but there’s nothing else out there.

[Interviewer:] Senator Collins thanks for joining us.

[Senator Collins:] It’s a complete void

[Interviewer:] Yeah, We’re out time

[Senator Collins:] The environment’s perfectly safe. …. We’re out of time?.. Can you book me a cab?

[Interviewer:] But didn’t you come in a commonwealth car?

[Senator Collins:] Yes, I did, but

[Interviewer:] What happened?

[Senator Collins:] The front fell off.”

Reply to  Jeff
November 16, 2018 4:52 am

I had a student who was living in Germany (If I remember right) when Chernobyl exploded. He told me they couldn’t drink milk for a long time afterward. link

Reply to  commieBob
November 16, 2018 6:13 am

When Sellafield Windscale Fire in 1957 spewed caesium, polonium all over the British Isles and Normandy, the cordial Brits refrained to tell all until the ’90s. When Chernobyl (same as Sellafield) burned, the very same cordials went the full hog on media alarm. Result – Germany going back to the greenstone age. Meanwhile Hinckley Point C goes ahead with France’s EDF and China’s CGN.

Reply to  commieBob
November 17, 2018 3:59 am

well when UK ran Maralinga tests Aussies werent warned of fallout and they were secretly taking samples of babies bones to test for a long time in Sth Aus( and Vic too would have been in wind pattern areas)
the french pacific tests and usa pacific ones
funny how russias always the demon when anything nukes mentioned?
at least they kept their crap in their own areas tests wise.

Javert Chip
November 15, 2018 8:19 pm

Oh yea, them there Russian engineer dudes have a long track record of high quality stuff, both nuclear (ref: USSR nuclear fleet) and conventional (ref: Russia’s current floating rust-bucket aircraft carrier).

…not to mention the lack of safety engineering (even relative to 1986 standards) at Chernobyl…

Reply to  Javert Chip
November 16, 2018 12:09 am

They do have fighter jets that can do the cobra.

kent beuchert
Reply to  Javert Chip
November 16, 2018 2:00 am

“Oh yea, them there Russian engineer dudes have a long track record of high quality stuff, both nuclear (ref: USSR nuclear fleet) and conventional (ref: Russia’s current floating rust-bucket aircraft carrier).”
Those blunders were back in the days of Communist Russia, not the Russia of today. Citing decades old blunders indicates ignorance of what Russia can do these days. They just launched the first of many floating nuclear small modular nucler power plants, which can be floated to remote areas and seaside cities and towns, etc. Today the US does not have the capability of producing large steel ingots or the large steel structures requird by conventional nuclear power plants. That is one of the many reasons that small modular molten salt nuclear reactors are the only ones being developed in the U.S. Fortunately, molten salt reactors are the obvious future of power generation.

John Endicott
Reply to  kent beuchert
November 16, 2018 8:21 am

That is one of the many reasons that small modular molten salt nuclear reactors are the only ones being developed in the U.S.

cool ,where can we see one in commercial operation? Eh? there are none? really? So not so obvious after all. Talk is cheap, actions are what matters. When they get some molten salt reactors online, them one can proclaim them “the obvious future of power generation”. before then it’s just so much hot air.

(don’t get me wrong, they sound promising, but there’s been many an invention that sounded promising in the theoretical stage that never made it in the practical application stage).

Javert Chip
Reply to  kent beuchert
November 16, 2018 10:19 am


Let’s see: Russian/USSR engineers build complete crap for 80 years, and, all of a sudden, the same bunch of guys turn it all-around in 10-15 years…I’m not buying all that. This new. improved bunch of guys has been unsuccessfully trying to “fix” the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier for 20 years.

I do understand the military cannot afford to underestimate the enemy, but I’m not the military. I will concede Russians build some stuff better than other stuff, but Russian engineering is not exactly giving German engineering a run for its money.

Reply to  Javert Chip
November 17, 2018 4:03 am

well Kusnetzov is old…how do you explain your new hitech lemons like the f(d)35s and the utter dud stealth ships that didnt even make test runs?
zumwalt etc
whats NOT funny is ussa has screwed all its idiot allies for mega millions left us without anything new or useable worth a damn for defence.

Reply to  kent beuchert
November 16, 2018 5:00 pm

“kent beuchert November 16, 2018 at 2:00 am
“Oh yea, them there Russian engineer dudes have a long track record of high quality stuff, both nuclear (ref: USSR nuclear fleet) and conventional (ref: Russia’s current floating rust-bucket aircraft carrier).”

N.B.; that rust bucket aircraft carrier is Russia’s today’s aircraft carrier, not decades ago.
The rust portion indicates Russian maintenance and upgrades at work.

“kent beuchert November 16, 2018 at 2:00 am
Today the US does not have the capability of producing large steel ingots or the large steel structures requird{sic} by conventional nuclear power plants.”

“Steel Industry In USA
The US Steel industry has more than 100 steel making and production facilities under them which give rise to 98 million tons in steel shipments valued at $75 billion in 2014.”


“U.S. domestic steel shipments: 1976-2017
The Great Recession of 2008-2009 produced a devastating low in U.S. domestic steel shipments. In 2017, domestic steel producers shipped 90.8 million net tons, up 5 percent over 2016. However, after a steep decline in shipments in 2015, and no growth in 2016, the increase in shipments in 2017 was mainly attributable to end of inventory destocking by the distributor sector that impacted 2015 and 2016 demand. Although 2017 domestic shipments were 50 percent higher than 2009, shipments were still 14.2 percent lower than the pre-crisis average of 106 million net tons for 2000-2007.
comment image?h=458&w=800

U.S. raw steel production and capacity utilization: 2000-2017
Another major indicator of the health of the domestic steel industry is capacity utilization. In the six years prior to 2008, capacity utilization levels averaged 89 percent. During the Great Recession capacity utilization dropped to just 51.5 percent in 2009. In 2015, U.S. raw steel output fell to its lowest level since 2009 following a surge of imports in 2014. Since then, production and capacity utilization have slowly recovered, but still average only 75 percent utilization rate, well below the level the industry needs to achieve long-term sustainability.
comment image?h=473&w=800″

That large ingot capability you claim America can not produce? Not a problem at all.

Mini-mills, i.e. smaller electric arc furnaces now produce more steel than the domestic large steel producers, but the large ingot capability is still there.
With base steels literally dumped on the global market, the mini-mills address the specialty steels and alloys market.

Larry Hamlin
November 15, 2018 8:25 pm

The U.S nuclear rocket NERVA program ended because Congress got bored with the space program in the early 1970’s accelerated by the huge increasing costs for the Vietnam War.

The NERVA program was successful in achieving the development of a nuclear engine which met the mission performance goals for a manned mission to Mars.

This was achieved with the NRX-A6 engine tested in the Nevada desert in 1968. Two flying test bed engines were built the XE-1 and 2.

These nuclear engine tests of course released controlled levels of radiation into the atmosphere when tested. The engines would have been the third stage of a rocket assembly taken to orbit by chemical rockets so their operation in space did not present a radiation hazard in the atmosphere.

Here in the U. S. the anti nuclear activists would mobilized political pressure to preclude any nuclear rocket development and testing in our country. Russia and China would not have to deal with any such political problems.

Reply to  Larry Hamlin
November 15, 2018 9:36 pm

A second or third stage is a lot different then a first stage. The issue is thrust to weight.
I don’t think a nuclear reactor can be used in first stage rocket.
Unless the Russians are talking about a nuclear Orion- or rocket propelled by small nuclear warheads.
If you can reduce the mass of nuclear reactor, then one could have efficient second stage rocket. Or first stage rocket which given enough assisted boost [such launched from mothership, or other means].

A problem in terms of costs, is such nuclear reactor rocket use hydrogen as propellant, chemical rocket use low cost rocket fuel because they most using a cheap oxidier [ie LOX] which most of mass of rocket propellant. LOX is about 10 cents per kg and LH2 is about $5 per kg.
SpaceX is using LOX and Kerosene, 1 kg of kerosene per 3 1/2 kg of LOX.
And kerosene about $1 per kg
So 4 1/2 kg of mixed rocket fuel is about 35 cents of LOX and $1 of Kerosene or
$1.35 is divided by 4.5 kg is rocket fuel cost of 30 cents per kg.

Currently rocket fuel cost is not significant part of costs of rocket launch cost, but SpaceX [or Musk] wants to get to point launches are so cheap, that rocket fuel costs because less insignificant.
Or currently launch costs are about $1000 per kg of payload, SpaceX wants to 1/2 of this cost, and rocket fuel at $500 per kg of payload to LEO, becomes something like 20% of total cost [or significant part of cost.
Hydrogen also low density therefore need more mass tankage compared to mass of fuel.
I guess air launched and small payloads to LEO might work with nuclear reactor first stage- might work, maybe. And maybe suborbital would work.

Reply to  gbaikie
November 16, 2018 7:42 pm

Thrust can be compensated by injecting LOX into the nozzle. Sure shifting a LANTR into “low gear” drops the ISP, but nearly doubles the thrust.

Reply to  Larry Hamlin
November 16, 2018 6:15 pm

“The engines would have been the third stage of a rocket assembly taken to orbit by chemical rockets so their operation in space did not present a radiation hazard in the atmosphere.” I don’t buy that. The final stage going into orbit is going sub-orbital speed until the last moment, otherwise there’d be no reason to keep firing the engines. Not only that, the exhaust is being fired out the back end, so its speed is subtracted from whatever speed the rocket is flying–hence well below orbital speed. The result is that every bit of that exhaust winds up falling back to earth.

The only way a nuke rocket’s exhaust would not fall back to earth would be if it were flying in interplanetary space, or possibly between low earth orbit and interplanetary space (although even then the fact that the exhaust is going in the opposite direction of the rocket implies that its speed relative to the earth is much lower, possibly even suborbital).

Larry Hamlin
Reply to  mcswell
November 17, 2018 9:39 am

The NERVA engines were tested in Nevada desert under operation at full power for up to 60 minute long periods. The radioactive plum at these testing sites was far greater than any operation would have been for low earth orbit space operation which would have been for far shorter time periods. The ground test 60 minutes operation radioactive plum which was measured and tracked did not present a radiation hazard outside the boundary of the Nevada test site.

November 15, 2018 8:40 pm

Haven’t we been here before?
1986 from UA via Sweden, Finland as far as Bonnie Scotland?
Now it’s 2018 and Ru106.

When this wet dream is supposed to approximate to reality it means our nice little Буревестник is going to irradiate all our kids supported by “legitimate denial”, and “glory to Russia” leading the world in nuclear nightmares?

Bruce of Newcastle
November 15, 2018 8:49 pm

Seeing that SpaceX and every other launch company have had many launch failures during their startup phase, it’s inevitable these guys will too. I hope they have good radiation suits for the clean up job.

Robert of Texas
November 15, 2018 9:04 pm

Rockets work by ejecting exhaust gases at a high velocity thus pushing the engine (and whatever it is attached to) in the opposite direction. The higher the thermal energy you can impart on the gases, the more thrust you can potentially impart on the space craft. So there are a few possibilities I can think of using a “nuclear engine”.

1) Use it to raise temperatures of exhaust gases directly, transferring heat of the fission to the gases. The problem here is carrying enough of the gases for a long trip. I can’t see this being very practical.

2) Use it to generate electricity for ion propulsion. This requires far less of the gases, but has a very long “burn time” – essentially you “burn” the engines halfway to the target in forward and then halfway in reverse.

3) Using small nuclear “explosions” to propel the craft forward – honestly I just cannot fathom this ever working safely enough for human flight.

So my best guess is they will use it for a type of ion engine, possibly transferring some heat to the gasses before stripping them of their electrons in order to get a more energetic thrust.

NASA is already using ION engines…They already have small nuclear generators for making electricity, so just combine these and you have what I suspect the Russians are developing.

Now add some expendable chemical boosters to get the spacecraft started towards Mars and you cut dramatically down on the time require to reach Mars. The ION engines burn the entire trip (except while in orbit). It will require more time to get there then to return home (unless you take big heavy chemical boosters there with you).

The only practical way to explore the solar system AWAY from the sun is to take a nuclear generator. Solar cells just cannot provide enough electricity to power much of anything. If humans are on board, you need electricity to make provide oxygen, scrub the air, provide light for the greenhouse (or vats of green algae crap that you have to eat, bleh), heating, computers, communications, etc. There is going to be a nuclear generator on board, I just see no other way past maybe Mars.

Anyway, what the American private industry is developing is a way to get stuff into orbit more cheaply…nuclear generators are useless for this. If you can reduce the cost of getting stuff into orbit, the rest follows pretty naturally. The Russians are completely missing the point. Once again, Private Industry is getting it right.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
November 16, 2018 6:30 am

Tangentially related (but still really neat):
There are actually two reports you can download (from the 1960’s –62 and 65 I believe) that discuss using nuclear powered jet turbine engines for atmospheric flight. They both discuss one of the two prevailing approaches to raising the temperature of your exhaust gasses. The “Direct-Air-Cycle” (vs. the Indirect Air Cycle) jet technology. If you search this site with key terms “apex910” or “apex919” you will get the two papers. https://ntrl.ntis.gov/NTRL/

Directly related to the post:
The NERVA program (https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19910017902.pdf) created several different variants of the “NRX” reactor for testing purposes. The program was successful in demonstrating the technical capabilities of a nuclear powered rocket system and per the literature, the tests were conducted under conditions (e.g. temperarture, pressure, power levels, etc…) that would be desirable in a propulsion technology even today.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
November 16, 2018 7:33 am

I agree. Rocket propulsion needs reaction mass that you accelerate and send in one direction in order to get the rocket to move in the other direction. A nuclear reaction will generate a lot of energy, but you will still need a reaction mass to provide the thrust.

It is the energy/mass needed to get the unused reaction mass moving that is the biggest issue in rockets because the engine needs to burn for a long time to reach escape velocity. I’ve forgotten the equation for how much, but the majority of the rocket fuel is used just getting itself moving! That’s why multi-stage rockets and boosters are needed.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
November 17, 2018 6:25 am

1. NTR rockets are great when already in space. The problem of thrust, to my understanding has been thus far addressed by the LANTR design. It trades ISP for thrust, and can be switched on and off with ease.

3. Orion and Zubrin’s salt water rockets are great performers, but not a good idea to try on inhabited planets.

Gary Ashe
November 15, 2018 9:19 pm

Accidents are the reason we dont fire all our nuclear waste into space aren’t they.

Reply to  Gary Ashe
November 16, 2018 1:13 pm

“Accidents are the reason we dont fire all our nuclear waste into space aren’t they.”

I would say it’s due to the lack monetizing the cost of nuclear waste storage.
What is cost or price to store nuclear waste.
Candy has different cost/price depending on the type candy.
Nuclear waste should have different cost/price depending on type of nuclear waste.
So nuclear waste which has highest price to be stored [for thousands of years] might be shipped
from Earth to Lunar surface [the cheapest and safest place to put nuclear waste in space].

R Davis
November 15, 2018 9:21 pm

Does this mean that man will finally & eventually get to land on the moon ??
After all the monies have been spent.
I have little if any confidence in the ability of Elon Musk ….
I read the financial page, where he is a lose, lose situation,bordering on JINX:

Reply to  R Davis
November 16, 2018 5:07 am

….hmm… Surely you meant to say, “Will eventually return to the moon”?

John Endicott
Reply to  R Davis
November 16, 2018 8:36 am

Does this mean that man will finally & eventually get to land on the moon ??

you do realize that man has already landed on the moon (about 50 years ago)? Please tell me you mistyped and are not one of those “moon landings were faked” nuts.

Ancient Wrench
November 15, 2018 9:27 pm

The business case for a nuclear rocket seems to presume that propellants are a significant factor in launch costs. Per SpaceX, the Falcon 9 uses $200,000 to $300,000 in fuel and oxidizer in a single launch, less that 1% of total cost. To achieve very high specific impulse, the nuclear rocket would need much more expensive liquid hydrogen and still need periodic replacement of its reactor core fuel.
The higher efficiency of the nuclear rocket may allow a more robust design, but if the Falcon 9 Block 5 is already good for 100 flights, how much more robust does a rocket need to be?

Reply to  Ancient Wrench
November 16, 2018 8:14 am

I’m not sure that the business case was that propellants are a significant factor. I think at the time they were a more significant factor than they are are now. However, I think the business case is that you have a much higher specific impulse ( 2 to 3 times ) with a nuclear powered rocket using hydrogen and hydrogen isotopes as fuel. So you can lift more for less, and you could get there faster. Whether or not that is a convincing enough case for the majority of customers (e.g. satellite launches, resupply launches, etc…) is another story. How fast do you need to get to orbit and how much do you want to take?

Reply to  Ancient Wrench
November 16, 2018 11:48 am

I would think that a nuclear rocket engine would be used just for interplanetary ferry service, built in orbit and cargo lifted by shuttle/space elevator. Hopefully it would never touch the planet’s surface.

November 15, 2018 9:36 pm

So they stopped ordering MiG-41s and are updating MiG-31s (to BP) to carry?
FYI: MiG-41 4.3 MACH
This will be fun to watch, until one falls from the sky…

Larry Hamlin
November 15, 2018 9:46 pm

The crucial advantage of the NERVA engine was its intended use for space exploration missions to Mars and beyond.

With a specific impulse twice that of the best chemical rockets it required 1/2 of the fuel per lb. of payload for such space missions.

Since the fuel for such missions had to be sent into orbit this reduction represented a huge mission cost advantage.

This mission use of a nuclear rocket engine is sugnificantly different than proposing to use a nuclear rocket for near earth orbit launches.

November 15, 2018 11:33 pm

Boron hydrogen fusion would be perhaps the ultimate rocket drive and without the hazardous neuton radiation. The alpha particle products of HB11 fusion travel at millions of meters per second vs thousands of m/s for the exhaust from a hydrogen combustion rocket. The Mev neutron products of fission being neutrally charged are not so easy to turn into thrust.
They gave up on the linear magnetic confinement fusion reactor a long time ago because they could not confine the ends of the plasma. And the science was settled back in 1979 that said free electrons cannot be accelerated in the direction of travel of the laser beam. But the science has been unsettled by accelerating free electrons to 40 Kev in the direction of the laser beam. If fusion temperature Deuterium ions can be confined with 10 Kev, how many Kev would it take to confine HB11 ions? How many megawatts or gigawatts could a very dense one meter long by one milimeter wide plasma deliver?

Dodgy Geezer
November 16, 2018 12:19 am

The Brits have got a radical technology for a single-stage-to-orbit space plane – an aircraft with a jet engine that turns into a rocket.

It breaths air at low altitudes, converts it into liquid oxygen in a matter of milliseconds and uses it in an 02/H2 rocket engine. They have it working, but, like most things the Brits do, they can’t make it into a business….


kent beuchert
November 16, 2018 2:05 am

And Elon Musk wowed his space-ignorant fans by launching one of his sports cars into orbit (it was the wrong orbit, a fact not mentioned by the Tesla-friendly media. Tesla’s rockets have had a very spotty record and have consumed (as per usual) large amounts of US funds. As I recall, his biggest rocket is not suitable for any space mission. Musk fouls up just about everything he attempts.

Reply to  kent beuchert
November 16, 2018 3:11 am

Musk is a conman.
He nearly got busted by the SEC blurting out obvious lies, when his occasional and increasingly frequent “I forgot to put my brain in gear before I opened my big mouth” incidents.

Musk is like socialism, it’s great until you run out of “the other people’s money” to spend.

Margaret was right about a lot of stuff, including snake oil car industry blokes, which is of course why she closed down most of the uber subsidised BMC before it flushed the whole country down the toilet.

Reply to  kent beuchert
November 16, 2018 7:25 am

Really? SpaceX was first commercial to deliver to the ISS using their own invented capsule–which many (including probably you) thought was impossible. Breaking into the government dominated launch sphere as a new company was beyond the pale, yet here we are. SpaceX was the first to land an orbital rocket–which many thought (including probably you) would be impossible. SpaceX is the first to then successfully Reuse and Re-land that same rocket a second time–which many thought (including probably you) would be impossible. Yet once again, here we are.

SpaceX does not have a “very spotty” record. I invite you to do the math. They also take far less government funds than a government program or the ULA, and are providing the cheapest space launch service with some of the best engines on the market they invented themselves.

Sorry, but I am wholly unimpressed with your opinion.

Gunga Din
Reply to  kent beuchert
November 16, 2018 2:49 pm

If I remember correctly, Musk meant to put a Tesla (stripped down) in orbit around Mars. Instead it’s headed for the asteroid belt.
As Maxwell Smart would say, “Missed it by that much!”

Philip Schaeffer
Reply to  Gunga Din
November 16, 2018 6:06 pm

You may remember correctly, but what you knew in the first place was wrong. Go and look up the details.

November 16, 2018 2:11 am

USA leads the way in adjusting the world’s temperature still.

November 16, 2018 2:12 am

Pfft. Putin’s Russia says lots of things, but mostly it is hot air designed to mollify their butthurt. I remember in 2015 the Russian media were trying to say that an Su24 jammed a AGIS destroyer in the Black Sea and rendered its systems impotent…. Which it utterly ridiculous, an Su24 simply does not have the electrical capacity or the antenna to overcome an AGIS ship’s capabilities. It was just propaganda.

November 16, 2018 2:21 am

How interesting. Sound similar to what shown freeman was working on a generation ago. https://youtu.be/ToeGbhJDiU4

Tasfay Martinov
November 16, 2018 2:28 am

This is where the chicken littles come home to roost.
Decades of tolerance of infantile anti-nuclear and anti-everything activism has now lost the US its leadership in space and ballistic technology, that they may never regain. This idiot-activism is corrosive of democracy.

Zurab Abayev
November 16, 2018 2:57 am

Russia failed with most of their recent rocket launches. Their workers are stealing rare earth from their missiles causing them to crush. This announcement stole picture from James Cameron Avatar. Russia is unable to operate their icebreaker fleet. The only floating dock PD-50 sank as a result of Russian negligence. They closed a whole in the spaceship with a gum…
sorry, but I chose not to…

Philip Schaeffer
November 16, 2018 3:25 am

Eric Worrall said:

“A single special forces forward observer would have the capability to utterly destroy entire armoured columns, fleets of ships and large military bases within seconds of a kill decision, using a laser targeting device the size of a flashlight to direct the attack.”

😀 Yeah, sure. How many seconds?

David A Smith
November 16, 2018 4:17 am

This explains why the Russians wanted to increase their uranium holdings. I am sure the Russian government is grateful to those who helped them acquire some of the American uranium interests.

Reply to  David A Smith
November 16, 2018 4:56 pm

I hear that the gratitude lasted a whole five seconds after the ink dried, a new record!

Philip Schaeffer
Reply to  David A Smith
November 16, 2018 6:02 pm

Sources of US uranium:

Hungary, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, South Africa, Ukraine, and unknown–10%

In case of war, Russia has more than enough Uranium for it’s own needs.

In case of war, their ownership of US uranium assets is irrelevant. If it matters for national security they will be taken back.

And they only own about 10% of the relatively tiny US uranium production.

This whole business has been heavily politicized, mostly on the basis of having OMG CLINTON, RUSSIA, and URANIUM in the same sentence.

November 16, 2018 4:36 am

The Russian hypersonic and nuclear cruise missile announcement took the Pentagon by surprise (CIA too busy looking for WMD in Syria). Nicely outflanked.
The Clementine AirForce Lunar survey discovered He3 at the polar craters, the perfect fusion engine fuel.
With such an engine at 1g and Mars taikes 3 weeks. China has a stated intention of mining it.
The only way to stop another nuclear arms race is an updated SDI orbital laser program- Trump’s old friend Reagan announced that in 1983. Russia then declined, and collapsed. Looks like lesson learned.
SDI or SDE (StrategicDefense of the Earth) means cooperation with Russia and China – exactly what Trump wants. “Russiagate” is worse than Andropov’s 1983 shortsightedness.

November 16, 2018 4:47 am

Need to be sure our spies are ready to steal their ideas. /sarc

Doug Huffman
November 16, 2018 4:47 am

See “Scepticism is the chastity of the mind.” By George Santayana.

I think Burevestnik (Russian: Буревестник; English: Petrel) as nuclear powered is at least vaporware and likely #FakeNews. It may be nuclear armed and spun into “nuclear powered” as click-bait by the ever more desperate slimestream media.

Dr. Strangelove
November 16, 2018 5:07 am

I call it Russian hype. An ion rocket powered by nuclear reactor? What’s the mass of a reactor in nuclear sub? What’s the mass loss per second of nuclear fuel converted to free neutrons? Do the math. It’s laughable. There’s a reason we don’t have a nuclear airplane: power-to-weight ratio

Crispin in waterloo
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
November 16, 2018 8:31 am

Dr S

The nuclear airplane made steam, not expelled neutrons. Read first.

Reply to  Crispin in waterloo
November 16, 2018 8:56 am

Radioactive nuetrons ?

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Crispin in waterloo
November 16, 2018 7:37 pm

Where’s the nuclear airplane? Steam-powered airplanes have low power-to-weight ratio. Ion rocket is propelled by neutrons from nuclear fission. Still low power-to-weight ratio. Get it?

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Crispin in waterloo
November 16, 2018 9:30 pm

Let’s calculate the thrust-to-mass ratio of nuclear-powered ion rocket for fun
Let’s use the SNAP-10A space nuclear reactor
Electric power output = 590 W
Mass = 290 kg (excluding lead shield, control system, power conversion system, propellant tank)
Thrust of ion thruster = F = 0.025 N

Let’s use xenon for propellant
Ionization energy of xenon = 1170 kJ/mol
Propellant consumption rate = 590/(1170 x 1000) = 0.0005 mol/s
Operating time = 8760 hrs or 1 yr
Amount of propellant = 0.0005 (8760 x 3600) = 15,902.77 mol
Molar mass of xenon = 131.29 g/mol
Mass of propellant = 15,902.77 (131.29/1000) = 2088 kg
Mass propellant + reactor = m = 2088 + 290 = 2378 kg

Rocket acceleration = F/m = 0.025/2378 = 0.00001 m/s^2
A turtle can walk from 0 to 0.11 m/s in 10 sec.
Turtle acceleration = 0.11/10 = 0.011 m/s^2
Turtle is quicker than nuclear-powered ion rocket! LOL

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
November 16, 2018 9:31 am

The weight problem was due to the protective shield for the humans.

Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
November 16, 2018 10:09 am


November 16, 2018 5:27 am

Russia’s ahead of us – how?

Russia’s navy has ONE aircraft carrier, and it burns diesel fuel, produces black
smoke. WE have an entire fleet of nuclear aircraft carriers, for Pete’s sake.

Russia has more nuke subs than diesels, but WE have more big nukes than Russia does. WE have a good safety record. Russia’s history with nuke-powered ships has been poor. Early Soviet endeavors resulted in a number of serious accidents – five where the reactor was irreparably damaged, and more resulting in radiation leaks. There were more than 20 radiation fatalities. WE didn’t have those problems.

This arm-waving and ‘look at us!’ stuff is not much else.

November 16, 2018 5:32 am

“Their nuclear powered cruise missile, a low flying stealth weapon with effectively unlimited range, sent shockwaves through the military community when President Putin revealed the new weapon last March.”

I love this part.
Putin has successfully copied an American program that was abandoned in 1964.
For further info, check out “the flying crowbar” or SLAM.

November 16, 2018 5:57 am

Mike Griffin, former NASA Administrator, and now Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering explained : “We developed the fundamental research in hypersonics decades ago, and chose not to weaponize it.” … China has done numerous tests of maneuverable hypersonic vehicles, and the U.S. cannot even detect them. The hypersonic threat includes a rapid launch-to-target that is very short, tens of minutes – we need a warning system and our ground-based radar systems can’t do that. We need to be able to see them from space.
Griffin sounds like SDI, no idea if they are looking at it though.

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  bonbon
November 16, 2018 9:26 am

Mr. Griffin is “mis-under-directing”. The US has been working on hypersonic missiles for a long time as well.

Jeff Labute
November 16, 2018 8:30 am

Spewing raw hydrogen atoms in to space will increase the ppm of hydrogen atoms thereby causing universal warming.

Robert of Ottawa
November 16, 2018 9:18 am

I a all infavor though I am surprised to see it as a launch vehicle. I rather thought this would be the rocket for interplanetary oepration and never land on a planet. With performance like this, we can build our 1km space craft.

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
November 16, 2018 9:28 am

Apologies for the typos; I had an entropy spill on my keyboard. It will probably get worse.

November 16, 2018 10:28 am

The world is a little safer with Russia wasting its time on big pride projects to nowhere.

R Kanhai
November 16, 2018 10:47 am

This is an article I expected to see in RT, a Kremlin mouthpiece, not in WUWT.

Tom Abbott
November 16, 2018 11:09 am

From the link within the article:


“The Russian researchers say that their nuclear-powered rocket platform will be able to make it to Mars seven months after launch”

end excerpt

Seven months is roughly the normal trip time to Mars. It doesn’t look like the nuclear rocket speeds up the process any.

We could accomplish the same thing by putting Buzz Aldrin’s “Aldrin Cycler” transfer vehicles into service between Earth orbit and Mars orbit.

From Buzz Aldrin’s website:

“Upon the recommendation of Tom Paine (former NASA Administrator during the Apollo Moon landings), Buzz began to adapt the cycling orbit concept to the much more complex goal of human missions to Mars. Buzz’s shrewd estimations of the relative movements and positions of the Earth and Mars to determine the gravity-assist trajectories and orbital route of a perpetually cycling reusable spacecraft, as seen in his numerous hand drawings, were verified by engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). His concept worked and was christened the “Aldrin Cycler.

Aldrin’s system of cycling spacecraft makes travel to Mars possible using far less propellant than conventional means, with an expected five and a half month journey from the Earth to Mars, and a return trip to Earth of about the same duration on a twin semi-cycler.

The Aldrin Cycler’s design features a slow rotation of the spacecraft to create artificial gravity to avoid the bone and muscle loss hazard of weightlessness on long-duration trips.

In each cycle when the Aldrin Cycler’s trajectory swings it by the Earth, a smaller Earth-departing interceptor spacecraft ferries crew and cargo up to dock with the Cycler spacecraft. Ultimately, the Aldrin Cycler system of transportation offers a way to make travel to Mars sustainable for the long-term, in contrast to the brief excursions to the Moon during the six Apollo lunar landings from 1969 to 1972.”

end excerpt

The International Space Station is supposed to be retired in a few years and I suggest that we modify the habitation modules attached to ISS into Aldrin Cyclers.

Put one habitation module on each end of a mile-long cable and rotate them around the center at one revolution per minute and this will create artificial gravity in the interior of the habitat modules equivalent to the gravity on the Earth’s surface.

Cover each module with a water-ice coating one meter thick and this will protect the inhabitants from harmful radiation.

We need enough propellant to put the modules into an orbit that continuously orbits between the Earth and Mars. Once in this orbit no more propellant is required other than minor orbital adjustments and the modules will periodically return to Earth to pick up more passengers and supplies.

The ISS habitat modules are already in orbit and have served their purpose of protecting humans in space and they can continue to do so with a little retrofitting for the next phase of our space development efforts.

As for the Russian nuclear-propelled rocket and cruise missle, they give no details so there is no way to judge where they are or what exactly they are doing.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 16, 2018 12:24 pm

“We could accomplish the same thing by putting Buzz Aldrin’s “Aldrin Cycler” transfer vehicles into service between Earth orbit and Mars orbit.”

I suggest we use chemical rockets to send crew to Mars within travel time of less 4 months.
This can’t be done with a hohmann transfer.

And to use Aldrin Cycler, you also can’t reach a Aldrin Cycler using a hohmann transfer.
Nor can get to Mars in 7 months without using hohmann transfer, plus patched conic [which done at outward end/leg of a hohmann transfer- and to get to Aldrin Cycler you need do something like patched conic in the beginning of leg of journey to Mars].

So I would suggest not using a Aldrin Cycler for the Mars exploration program, though it might be useful for later Mars settlement of Mars, once Mars has been explored. And Mars exploration program should be to determine where on Mars would be the better spots to have human settlements- which would be a private sector “business” rather something paid for by a government.

So I would use chemical rockets to get exploration crew to Mars, as fast as possible/practical and this requires a non hohmann transfer to Mars. I think this possible to do this in less than 3 months, though requires a lot more delta-v as compared to Hohmann or Hohmann + patch conic trajectory.

If you start a Mars journey from high earth orbit, you need about 1 km/sec of delta-v. From high earth orbit, one returns near earth and apply the 1 km/sec rocket thrust at perigee to obtain a mars hohmann transfer to Mars. If start from LEO, you need about 4 km/sec and plus later do a patched conic, if want to get Mars in 7 months.
To get to Mars in less than 8 months, you need to change vector of orbit.
And to get to Aldrin Cycler , you need to change the vector at beginning of trip to Mars.
So from high earth orbit one will apply at least 7 km/sec of delta-v at perigee- and most of energy is used to change the vector which allow you arrive a Mars distance in about 4 months, and one also need a patched conic as you would if want to get to Mars within 7 month with hohmann transfer.
But this is not the same as adding 7 km/sec to a hohmann transfer, which is adding the vector, rather than changing the vector. If you add to the vector, you arrive at Mars distance going at high velocity- and need more delta-v for braking than you used to get to Mars.

Any way of getting to Mars in 3, 4, 5, 7 months requires changing the vector- whether Ion, nuclear, or with whatever propulsion. Or it has been claimed that with using ion propulsion, it possible to get to Mars in 39 days. And quite simply, a ion Engine does not use a hohmann transfer- because it’s low thrust, or a long duration rocket burn is not a hohmann transfer and has to involve changing the vector- and require more delta-v as compared to a hohmann transfer [because it’s changing the vector].

Reply to  Tom Abbott
November 16, 2018 12:33 pm

Also note this using chemical rockets and using the Oberth effect:
“In astronautics, a powered flyby, or Oberth maneuver, is a maneuver in which a spacecraft falls into a gravitational well, and then accelerates when its fall reaches maximum speed. The resulting maneuver is a more efficient way to gain kinetic energy than applying the same impulse outside of a gravitational well. ”

Such advantage is not available to low thrust rockets used to go to Mars, but works with high thrust engines, like chemical rockets.

Tasfay Martinov
November 16, 2018 11:45 am

It looks like Russian or Chinese hypersonic craft were spotted by airline pilots of Southern Ireland recently:


Theo Richel
November 16, 2018 11:51 am

I’m no physicist, but it appears that the us has successfully experimented with nuclear drones: http://theorichel.nl/Nuclear-drones

November 16, 2018 1:19 pm

Putin would make a great test pilot also.

Adrian Mann
November 16, 2018 3:30 pm

Nuclear powered cruise missiles? Nothing new – I give you the truly horrifying Pluto/SLAM: http://www.bisbos.com/air_missiles_pluto.html

Even the Brits considered it! http://www.bisbos.com/air_missiles_z-59.html

Joel O'Bryan
November 16, 2018 4:05 pm

“The Russian plan for a nuclear powered launcher must be taken seriously. ”


Alexander Feht
November 17, 2018 9:01 am

In Russia, everyone with a bit of brain is laughing at the Russian Space Agency cartoons. Strange that these fantasies are taken more or less seriously by some.

Russian Space Agency is closing the Soyuz propgram next year, they finally admitted that they are incapable to support it — professionally, financially, and technologically.

Tasfay Martinov
Reply to  Alexander Feht
November 18, 2018 3:26 am

With oil prices on their way back up, financial support might reappear.

Alexander Feht
Reply to  Tasfay Martinov
November 18, 2018 6:10 am

Well, it doesn’t look like oil prices are rising again. In any case, brain drain is the major factor. Space agency cannot function properly without brains.

Mark - Helsinki
November 19, 2018 1:05 pm

Musk relying on antiquated… where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, the vacuum tunnel train idea from the late 1700s that ended up being just a subway during that last test.:D

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