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physics and potentials of fissioning plasmas for space power and propulsionFissioning uranium plasmas are the nuclear fuel in conceptual high-temperature gaseous-core reactors for advanced rocket propulsion in space. A gaseous-core nuclear rocket would be a thermal reactor in which an enriched uranium plasma at about 10,000 K is confined in a reflector-moderator cavity where it is nuclear critical and transfers its fission power to a confining propellant flow for the production of thrust at a specific impulse up to 5000 sec. With a thrust-to-engine weight ratio approaching unity, the gaseous-core nuclear rocket could provide for propulsion capabilities needed for manned missions to the nearby planets and for economical cislunar ferry services. Fueled with enriched uranium hexafluoride and operated at temperatures lower than needed for propulsion, the gaseous-core reactor scheme also offers significant benefits in applications for space and terrestrial power. They include high-efficiency power generation at low specific mass, the burnup of certain fission products and actinides, the breeding of U-233 from thorium with short doubling times, and improved convenience of fuel handling and processing in the gaseous phase.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Thom, K.
(Florida Univ. Gainesville, FL, United States)
Schwenk, F. C.
(NASA Headquarters Washington, DC United States)
Schneider, R. T.
(NASA Headquarters Washington, DC United States)
Date Acquired
August 8, 2013
Publication Date
August 1, 1976
Publication Information
Publication: Acta Astronautica
Volume: 3
Subject Category
Distribution Limits