New U.S. space nuclear policy released

An artist's concept of a fission power system on the lunar surface. Image: NASA

A national strategy for the responsible and effective use of space nuclear power and propulsion (SNPP)—Space Policy Directive-6 (SPD-6)—was released by the White House on December 16 as a presidential memorandum.

Space nuclear systems include radioisotope power systems and nuclear reactors used for power, heating, or propulsion. Nuclear energy can produce more power at lower mass and volume compared to other energy sources and can shorten transit times for crewed and robotic spacecraft, thereby reducing radiation exposure in harsh space environments. SPD-6 establishes a road map for getting space nuclear systems into service and sets up high-level goals, principles, and federal agencies’ roles and responsibilities.

NASA work on lattice confinement fusion grabs attention

An article recently published on the IEEE Energywise blog heralds “Spacecraft of the Future,” which could be powered by lattice confinement fusion. While lattice confinement fusion is not a new concept and is definitely not ready for practical applications, it has been detected within metal samples by NASA researchers at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, using an electron accelerator–driven experimental process.

One small step for fission—on the Moon and beyond

A reliable energy source is critical for long-duration space exploration. NASA, targeting launch readiness by the end of 2026, has teamed up with the Department of Energy and Idaho National Laboratory to solicit realistic assessments of fission surface power systems designed for deployment on the Moon that could, with little modification, be sent to Mars as well.

Why Nuclear is an Emerging Technology for the Space Economy

Nuclear energy has played a key supporting role in historic missions to Mars, Pluto, and across the Solar System for the last 50 years. On January 1 2019, the nuclear-powered New Horizons flew by the most distant object ever observed up close - Ultima Thule, after it having already flown by Pluto in 2015.

Are the Tides Turning for Advanced U.S. Nuclear?

RadioNuclear.orgWelcome to the New Year!  Even though I am on the road, there is just so much happening lately in nuclear I could not pass up the opportunity to talk about it! This episode of RadioNuclear, we take a look at recent and exciting legislation and policy for advanced nuclear. This includes the passages of the NEIMA and NEICA bills and what the Idaho National Laboratory may look like in the coming years. We also discuss the NRC's recent decision on post Fukushima regulation. Lastly, we look on how you can adopt a dog from the Chernobyl exclusion zone. No, I am not making that up!

Listen: ANS Member Dr. Christopher Morrison on Space Radiation & More

TheSpaceShowANS member Dr. Christopher Morrison was a recent guest on The Space Show. Dr. Morrison covered space radiation, lifetime radiation limitations, legal limits, rodent GCR and radiation experimentation, terrestrial radiation simulations, space nuclear power & propulsion, super-cooling conductivity.

Navigating Nuclear with Bob Fine and Dr. Eric Loewen

The Mini-Mag Orion Space Propulsion System

ANST logoIn my previous article on the history of nuclear pulse propulsion, I outlined three research programs in nuclear propulsion systems for space travel.  The first of these, Project Orion, was investigated in the 1950s and 1960s as a very serious and practical option for space travel.  Its only limiting factor was the signing of the International Test Ban Treaty in 1963 that barred the detonation of nuclear weapons in space.

Nuclear Pulse Propulsion: Gateway to the Stars

ANST logoIn this first of a series of articles on nuclear propulsion for space travel, allow me to enlighten each of you about the fascinating history of this technology. This post will cover three early projects, with posts to follow that will explore other technologies along with an assessment of future prospects.

The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn

Cassini-Huygens is a Flagship-class NASA-ESA-ASI robotic spacecraft sent to the Saturn system. It has studied the planet and its many natural satellites since its arrival there in 2004, as well as observing Jupiter and the Heliosphere, and testing the theory of relativity. Launched in 1997 after nearly two decades of gestation, it includes a Saturn orbiter Cassini and an atmospheric probe/lander Huygens that landed in 2005 on the moon Titan. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2013.  It is powered by a plutonium power source, and has facilitated many landmark scientific discoveries in its mission to the stars.

ANS Nuclear Cafe Matinee: DUFF Space Nuclear Reactor Prototype

A joint Department of Energy and NASA team has demonstrated a simple, robust fission reactor prototype [note: see Comments for more accurate and complete description] intended for development for future space exploration missions. The DUFF (Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions) experiment represents the first demonstration in the United State-since 1965-of a space nuclear reactor system to produce electricity.

Nuclear-powered Mars rover Curiosity lands safely

An image sent by NASA's Curiosity rover shortly after landing

The nuclear-powered roving robotic laboratory Curiosity touched down early on August 6, and is beaming back images while undergoing system checks. The Curiosity landing has generated worldwide interest, including interest in its plutonium power source.

ANS Nuclear Matinee: Mars Rover Curiosity, A Nuclear Powered Mobile Laboratory

Early on Monday morning (1:31AM Eastern Daylight Time), after having traveled 352 million miles, NASA's robotic rover Curiosity is scheduled to touch down inside the Gale Crater on the surface of Mars. Soon after, it will begin looking for clues about possible early forms of Martian life.

NASA's Roadmap to the Nuclear Thermal Rocket

It is certainly exciting times for NASA and the space nuclear community, as physical testing of nuclear thermal rockets (NTRs) and associated components has begun at NASA and the Department of Energy laboratories across the country. Nuclear thermal propulsion, as discussed in a previous article, is just one form of nuclear propulsion with extensive research behind it, and the only form with an extensive testing background. Near-term efforts by NASA will focus on preparation for ground and flight tests of a scalable Nuclear Thermal Rocket around 2020. However, the larger purpose of the recently restarted testing track is to develop an engine for manned travel to an asteroid, and eventually to our neighboring planet, Mars.