LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Feb. 10, 2004 -- A proposed U.S. mission to investigate three ice-covered moons of Jupiter will demand fast-paced research, fabrication and realistic non-nuclear testing of a prototype nuclear reactor within two years, says a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist.
The roots of this build and test effort have been under way at Los Alamos since the mid-1990s, said David Poston, leader of the Space Fission Power Team in Los Alamos' Nuclear Design and Risk Analysis Group.
NASA proposes using use electrical ion propulsion powered by a nuclear reactor for its Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, an element of Project Prometheus, which is scheduled for launch after 2011. However, the United States hasn't flown a space fission system since 1965.
One advantage of a nuclear power source for propulsion is that the space probe would travel to its destination more quickly. However, another big advantage is that the probe would have a lot more power to run sensors, computers, and a transmitter. Hence it seems likely such a probe could gather much more and better quality data.
We can not do more in space without much better propulsion systems both for getting into orbit and to move around once up there. It is great that NASA is seriously considering this proposal and I hope they go ahead with it. Definitely a step in the right direction.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2004 February 16 02:58 PM Airplanes and Spacecraft|