Nuclear Power Systems Could Help Spacecraft in the Near Future

Nuclear Power Systems Could Help Spacecraft in the Near Future
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It’s not a secret to anybody that the spacecraft humanity currently has are still way too slow for those incomprehensible distances that separate the stars from one another. Astronomers would never be able to go to the nearest solar system to ours by using the current technology. Something else is needed to make those spacecraft fly faster, at least faster than they can go now, not necessarily for traveling to other star systems. 

How about next-gen nuclear propulsion? That’s what the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) seems to have in mind, as it announced some interesting plans on May 17.

Proving the next-gen of nuclear propulsion for spacecraft

According to space.com, the DIU organization aims to prove the next-gen of both nuclear propulsion and power capability when it comes to spacecraft. An orbital flight demonstration is scheduled for 2027. 

In the light of their ambitious goal, DIU announced two new prototype contracts just a few days ago, and they were sent to the two companies known as Ultra Safe Nuclear and Avalanche Energy.

Avalanche Energy’s Orbitron will be one major player in the big picture, as it aims to trap fusion ions in electrostatic fields. A magnetron will provide assistance to keep the atoms’ electrons closer to the cores. 

DIU stated as space.com quotes:

The resulting fusion burn then produces the energetic particles that generate either heat or electricity, which can power a high-efficiency propulsion system,

Compared to other fusion concepts, Orbitron devices are promising for space applications as they may be scaled down in size and enable their use as both a propulsion and power source. 

EmberCore is the chargeable nuclear radioisotope battery that can help for propulsion and that Ultra Safe Nuclear plans to demonstrate. As the corporation describes itself, it is actively developing projects globally in communities showing high support when it comes to clean power generated by advanced nuclear reactors. 

However, the new ideas most probably won’t represent the way to make humans fly from one star system to another in no time. The closest star system to ours is Alpha Centauri, and it’s located 4.3 light-years away from Earth. But even so, it’s great that scientists are trying to make some progress in developing faster spacecraft.


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Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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