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Stacking the odds in favor of a space propulsion jackpotWhen faced with a variety of technical options to solve a problem, program planners often try to identify one potential winner, then channel their resources into this option. The more scarce their resources are perceived to be, the more likely they are to fall into this trap of illogic. The real ideal solution could well be an optimum combination of options, not just one. Many propulsion opportunities are tantalizing solutions to the potentially high cost of travelling to other planets. Among these opportunities, nuclear thermal rockets (NTR), nuclear electric propulsion (NEP), and asteroid derived propellants stand out as high-payoff modest-challenge options, as near term as they are resolved to be made. But which to choose? Or should higher risk higher payoff technology be opted for, such as fusion? The approach advocated here, technoflex, is one that addresses NTR, NEP, and asteroid propellants in harmony rather than in isolation. Technoflex is technology rich, and option flexible. Technoflex should cost roughly the same as a classic phased technology elimination approach. The synergistic benefits amongst these three options, how they can be efficiently pursued together, and how they can fit with longer range technologies are stressed. Even if no single option reaches its highest expectations, the combinations of any two partial winners would still give big dividends. These combinations are cheap propellants in space, dual mode high thrust/low thrust, or versatile propellant NTR. The triple payoff is excellent, even if all three options would pan out below expectations. If only one option reaches its potential, it could make the other two still worth their investment. If all three options meet full expectations, the triple payoff is a space propulsion jackpot which makes concern about the initial investment ludicrous as well as open up the solar system to expedient exploration.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Conference Paper
Willoughby, Alan J.
(Analex Corp. Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1991
Publication Information
Publication: Arizona Univ., Resources of Near-Earth Space: Abstracts
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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