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Nuclear propulsion: A vital technology for the exploration of Mars and the planets beyondThe physics and technology issues and performance potential of various direct thrust fission and fusion propulsion concepts are examined. Next to chemical propulsion the solid core fission thermal rocket (SCR) is the olny other concept to be experimentally tested at the power (approx 1.5 to 5.0 GW) and thrust levels (approx 0.33 to 1.11 MN) required for manned Mars missions. With a specific impulse of approx 850 s, the SCR can perform various near-Earth, cislunar and interplanetary missions with lower mass and cost requirements than its chemical counterpart. The gas core fission thermal rocket, with a specific power and impulse of approx 50 kW/kg and 5000 s offers the potential for quick courier trips to Mars (of about 80 days) or longer duration exploration cargo missions (lasting about 280 days) with starting masses of about 1000 m tons. Convenient transportation to the outer Solar System will require the development of magnetic and inertial fusion rockets (IFRs). Possessing specific powers and impulses of approx 100 kW/kg and 200-300 kilosecs, IFRs will usher in the era of the true Solar System class speceship. Even Pluto will be accessible with roundtrip times of less than 2 years and starting masses of about 1500 m tons.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Borowski, Stanley K.
(NASA Lewis Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 5, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1988
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.15:101354
Meeting Information
Meeting: Case for Mars 3
Location: Boulder, CO
Country: United States
Start Date: July 18, 1987
End Date: July 22, 1987
Sponsors: Los Alamos Lab., JPL, NASA Johnson Space Center, Planetary Socie, American Astronautical Society, NASA Ames Research Center,, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center,
Accession Number
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 906-85-44
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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