New images show possible versions of future space propulsion.
nuclear fission Systems that harness the energy released by atom fission can be used to power astronaut bases. Moon Also MarsAlternatively, it could help reduce travel time to Mars, which takes six to nine months with current propulsion systems.
Rolls-Royce could be part of that ambitious spaceflight future.The venerable company released an early-stage design of its micronuclear reactor on Friday (January 27) in the wake of 2021 agreement (opens in new tab) We are working with the British Space Agency to explore future nuclear options in space exploration.
“Each uranium particle is encapsulated in multiple protective layers that act as a containment system, allowing it to withstand extreme conditions,” said Rolls-Royce. murmured (opens in new tab) A brief description of the system.
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Nuclear systems have long been flown in robotic space missions.For example, the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) is NASA’s Voyager 1 When Voyager 2 Spacecraft currently being explored interstellar spaceLike a big NASA Mars rover Perseverance Smaller rovers like Spirit and Opportunity used solar panels, but Curiosity also uses RTG.
But an RTG is not a nuclear fission reactor. Rather, they are nuclear batteries, converting the heat released by the decay of radioactive material into electricity. Nuclear fission doesn’t yet power extraterrestrial spacecraft, but that could change soon.For example, NASA and DARPA soon announced plans Build a nuclear-powered rocket by 2027.
Nuclear fusion — which powers the sun and other stars and is produced by the fusion of atoms — could one day become part of mankind’s spaceflight portfolio. However, its possible future is long-term. Our species has not yet tapped into this power source here on Earth. (However, US scientists recently announced a major breakthrough: a fusion experiment produced more energy than consumed. )
Generally speaking, concerns about cosmic fission or fusion energy include astronaut safety. Portability. The greater the mass, the more expensive the mission. Long life in harsh and rugged environments.
That said, nuclear power is a major component of space exploration, and it is the same in real life and in the world. science fiction. This technology 2015 movie In the “The Martian” movie, astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) seeks warmth in an unheated rover and, for safety reasons, desperately seeks a nuclear reactor buried in regolith. was digging up. Don’t dig up big crates of plutonium, Mark. ”
Elizabeth Howell is co-author ofwhy am i tall (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022, co-authored with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter. @Howell Space (opens in new tab)Follow us on Twitter @space.com (opens in new tab) Also Facebook (opens in new tab).