Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Following Russia’s announcement of their successful ten year programme to build a civilian nuclear powered launch vehicle, President Trump’s administration has directed NASA to restart US research into nuclear powered launch technology.
Momentum Grows for Nuclear Thermal Space Propulsion
By Jeff Foust a day ago
PASADENA, Calif. — With congressional funding and industry support, nuclear thermal propulsion technology is making progress for potential use on future NASA deep space missions, although how it fits into the agency’s exploration architectures remains uncertain.
The House Appropriations Committee approved May 22 a commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill that offers $22.3 billion for NASA. That funding includes $125 million for nuclear thermal propulsion development within the agency’s space technology program, compared to an administration request for no funding.
“The bill’s investment in nuclear thermal propulsion is critical as NASA works towards the design of a flight demonstration by 2024,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), ranking member of the CJS appropriations subcommittee, during that subcommittee’s markup of the bill May 17. He offered similar comments in support of that project at the full committee markup.
…Read more: https://www.space.com/nuclear-thermal-space-propulsion-momentum-grows.html
The USA was once the unquestioned leader of nuclear space technology.
In addition to a successful nuclear thermal rocket programme (see the picture at the top of the page), the USA spent the best part of a decade exploring Project Orion, a 1950s technology space drive which was so powerful it could have affordably lifted entire cities to other worlds, or could even have been used to launch a manned mission to Alpha Centauri.
But all these US technology programmes were shelved and left to wither in the 1970s, thanks to political fear created by green anti-nuclear campaigns.
Now Russia has stepped in and taken the lead.
If the USA fails to catch up, if commercial and military Russian and Chinese space technology dominates the future, US green groups will have a lot to answer for.