Nuclear Rockets for Interplanetary Propulsion
THE LOW-POWER SPACE NUCLEAR ROCKET conceived by NASA engineers is described in this paper. It is compared with the chemical rocket and the nuclear turboelectric ion propulsion system. In developing the concept for this low-power rocket, NASA engineers concentrated on attaining low weight and high hydrogen temperature, and on solving problems concerned with automatic control and operation of high-temperature reactors. It was presumed that the NASA 1.5 million-lb thrust engine would be available, and could place 25,000 lb in orbit, at the time the nuclear rocket is ready for test. As experience is gained reactors of higher power can be developed. These can, perhaps, be used as second stages of larger chemical boosters. Finally, high-power, high-temperature rockets for booster application can be undertaken.