The Nuclear Rocket that could reach Alpha Centauri only in 120 years

Theoretical project of a nuclear thermal rocket

The nuclear salt-water rocket (NSWR, literally nuclear saltwater rocket) is a theoretical design of a nuclear thermal rocket by Robert Zubrin, an American aerospace engineer.

This rocket is expected to use 20% enriched plutonium or uranium salts as fuel. Its characteristics make this project remain, even if a little bizarre, in any case faithful to science as no exotic materials or new physics are envisaged for its realization, as explains.

Main advantage? The speed
The main advantage of this rocket would be its speed since it could propel itself at a speed equal to a fraction of light.
Thanks to a prolonged and controlled nuclear reaction, the rocket would be propelled by the heating of the fluid composed of uranium (or plutonium) salts as it flows through the engine.

Hot exhaust emissions
Rocket’s exhaust emissions would be at least 100 times hotter than those of a normal chemical rocket and the temperatures of the latter usually tend to easily exceed 3000 ° C.
An exhaust system to be able to withstand such high temperatures would have to be made of a special material, probably not yet identified, and the walls of the tank should also absorb neutrons (in this case, boron could be used as a base material for absorption) to avoid uncontrolled nuclear reactions.

It would be the most powerful rocket ever built
It is an objectively difficult engine to design but it would be, if it were really built, the most powerful ever built since it could develop a power of 700 Gigawatts.
Such a rocket would allow it to reach the outermost planets of the solar system (from Jupiter onwards) in a few months.

With uranium enriched to 90% it could reach Alpha Centauri
And to reach the other stars? In this case we would need not 20% enriched uranium but 90% enriched uranium. With a 330-ton spacecraft, explains, with a fuel load of 3,000 tons and 90% enriched uranium, it could reach 3% the speed of light. A speed that would allow to reach the nearest solar system, that of Alpha Centauri, in about 120 years, therefore in 2-3 generations.


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