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Space Plutonium: US Once Again Producing Fuel for Deep-Space Missions

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posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 02:45 PM
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Great news, ATS! NASA is once again producing Plutonium!

This is great news because it signifies a shift at NASA to a focus on deep-space missions. NASA apparenely stopped producing it in the late 80's for reasons that are not clear to me. Satellites and probes which travel close to Earth can use solar or gas energy but missions deeper into space need Plutonium, an isotope which releases heat through radioactive decay. Now, that a new Space race is slowly building up, NASA has put in an order to increase its current Plutonium level(s) from 38g to an eventual 1.5kg a year.



Producing power

In 2013, NASA began funding the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy in an effort to revive the department's capability to make plutonium-238, a process that ended when the Savannah River Site in South Carolina stopped producing it in 1988.

Production begins when neptunium-237 is shipped from its storage place at Idaho National Laboratory to Oak Ridge. There, engineers mix it with aluminum and press the material into pellets, which are then irradiated by the High Flux Isotope Reactor. Radiation changes the material to neptunium-238, which quickly decays to plutonium-238, according to the statement from ORNL.

The irradiated pellets are dissolved, and a chemical process separates the plutonium from the leftover neptunium. The plutonium is converted to an oxide and shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the material will be stored until called on for a mission. The remaining neptunium is recycled and used to produce more plutonium-238.

With continued NASA funding, the process will begin to produce 300 to 400 grams per material before it is scaled up to reach the goal of 1.5 kg per year.


Great new, eh ATS? The decision makers at NASA are ramping up their efforts after an increase in funding. This makes me excited for the future. What says ATS?

www.space.com...




posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 02:49 PM
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Brilliant!

I have always said with space we need to go nuclear or go home.

We wont get anyway on just chems excpet maybe another mission to the moon or a flag planting mission to mars.

We need to start looking at NERVA again. If it was up to me i would dust off the old Orion designs.


Though Im sure the tree hugging hippy brigade will be along to shout NASA down and retard space exploration.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 02:51 PM
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a reply to: lostbook

This is good news for small autonomous long range/term scout vehicles, beacons, relays, etc.

We still need to focus on high power systems though if we want to become a space faring civilization.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 02:53 PM
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originally posted by: greencmp
a reply to: lostbook

This is good news for small autonomous long range/term scout vehicles, beacons, relays, etc.

We still need to focus on high power systems though if we want to become a space faring civilization.


The ideas and designs are there.

Fact is all the ideas of realstic human interplantry travel with our solar system requires some sort of nuclear engine.

But because of Radiophobia the hippy Brigade will block them all.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 02:55 PM
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Awesome. Now we can blow up Jupiter...again.

When NASA announced its “Galileo into Jupiter” option, among those to publish immediate, serious objections (and later to repeat them on “Coast to Coast AM”) was an engineer named Jacco van der Worp. Van der Worp claimed that, plunging into Jupiter’s deep and increasingly dense atmosphere, the on-board Galileo electrical power supply – a set of 144 plutonium-238 fuel pellets, arrayed in two large canister devices called “RTGs” (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators – see image and schematic, below) – would ultimately “implode”; that the plutonium Galileo carried would ultimately collapse in upon itself under the enormous pressures of Jupiter’s overwhelming atmosphere—

www.enterprisemission.com...
edit on 1/2/2016 by Phage because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 02:58 PM
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originally posted by: crazyewok

originally posted by: greencmp
a reply to: lostbook

This is good news for small autonomous long range/term scout vehicles, beacons, relays, etc.

We still need to focus on high power systems though if we want to become a space faring civilization.


The ideas and designs are there.

Fact is all the ideas of realstic human interplantry travel with our solar system requires some sort of nuclear engine.

But because of Radiophobia the hippy Brigade will block them all.


Stewart Brand (Whole Earth Catalog) has been leading the charge in the green sector to educate people about the need for nuclear energy.

Stewart Brand’s Strange Trip: Whole Earth to Nuclear Power

These are all great indicators of progress.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:02 PM
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originally posted by: Phage
Awesome. Now we can blow up Jupiter...again.

When NASA announced its “Galileo into Jupiter” option, among those to publish immediate, serious objections (and later to repeat them on “Coast to Coast AM”) was an engineer named Jacco van der Worp. Van der Worp claimed that, plunging into Jupiter’s deep and increasingly dense atmosphere, the on-board Galileo electrical power supply – a set of 144 plutonium-238 fuel pellets, arrayed in two large canister devices called “RTGs” (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators – see image and schematic, below) – would ultimately “implode”; that the plutonium Galileo carried would ultimately collapse in upon itself under the enormous pressures of Jupiter’s overwhelming atmosphere—

www.enterprisemission.com...


That is actually possible (implosion) though, triggering self-sustaining fusion on Jupiter is not.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:03 PM
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a reply to: lostbook

Here's hoping the next Secretary of State will sign off "exporting" nuclear material to the rest of the Solar System.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:04 PM
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As long as the stuff makes it to orbit instead of raining down on our heads.

No guarantee there, why the controversy.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:05 PM
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a reply to: greencmp




That is actually possible (implosion) though.

No. The design of the RTG disallows that.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:09 PM
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originally posted by: Phage
a reply to: greencmp




That is actually possible (implosion) though.

No. The design of the RTG disallows that.


If the material is there and under enough pressure, I can't imagine that any containment architecture could prevent it.

Also, the mass of Jupiter would need to be a couple of orders of magnitude greater.


edit on 2-1-2016 by greencmp because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:12 PM
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originally posted by: intrptr
As long as the stuff makes it to orbit instead of raining down on our heads.

No guarantee there, why the controversy.


Quite so, that is the reason we haven't sent large quantities of fissionable material into orbit.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:13 PM
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NASA, ESA and JAXA need to grow up too and unite into a single space agency.

Fact is we are all close allies and we can all bring something to the table.

NASA has money and some of the best experience with manned missions, ESA has money and some of the best experience with unmanned probes , Plus France make a bloody good launch system and Japan can bring to the table some of the worlds best engineers.

Together we could accomplish so much more, and its only as a united mankind we really can conquer the solar system.

I would love to see China and Russia in there, but I am a realists and know the geopolitical situation makes it unwise and impractical to invite them.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:15 PM
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a reply to: greencmp
Been through it long ago. It cannot reach a supercritical point.
Never mind though, it's off topic.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:17 PM
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originally posted by: crazyewok
NASA, ESA and JAXA need to grow up too and unite into a single space agency.

Fact is we are all close allies and we can all bring something to the table.

NASA has money and some of the best experience with manned missions, ESA has money and some of the best experience with unmanned probes , Plus France make a bloody good launch system and Japan can bring to the table some of the worlds best engineers.

Together we could accomplish so much more, and its only as a united mankind we really can conquer the solar system.

I would love to see China and Russia in there, but I am a realists and know the geopolitical situation makes it unwise and impractical to invite them.


I actually think the opposite is true, we will develop much more quickly if space exploration is conducted by private individuals.

If we want to become a spacefaring civilization, we need civilized people to become spacefaring.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:18 PM
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originally posted by: Phage
a reply to: greencmp
Been through it long ago. It cannot reach a supercritical point.
Never mind though, it's off topic.


Yeah, it would take a lot of pressure, more than could be imparted by the atmosphere of Jupiter.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:26 PM
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originally posted by: greencmp


I actually think the opposite is true, we will develop much more quickly if space exploration is conducted by private individuals.

If we want to become a spacefaring civilization, we need civilized people to become spacefaring.


Eventually yes.

Problem is we lack any significant space infrastructure. And that infrastructure is beyond the cost of any single private entity.

The cost is so huge it just makes it not cost effective or profitable for a company to do any thing significant.

We need a organisation the will spend the billions or trillions needed to get that first infrastructure set up so the private company’s can then expand from that.

Once that infrastructure up and running you can slowly hand it over to the private sector.

I’m all for capitalism but it is not a magic bullet for everything and there some things capitalism can’t solve on its own and needs a little temporary help to get things moving along.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:28 PM
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a reply to: crazyewok

True, orbital infrastructure is necessary, whomsoever builds it.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:30 PM
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a reply to: Phage

Interesting theory, compelling evidence that the 'splotch' appearing a month later on Jupiters surface could correlate with the time it took for the Plutonium to sink to sufficient depth to initiate a high order chain reaction, weren't it not for the shape of the pellets. Implosion bomb pits are spherical, the pellets in the RTGs aboard Galileo were cylindrical.

Something has to account for the stain on Jupiter at that time, though. Some kind of dirty fission event, could be one possible cause.



posted on Jan, 2 2016 @ 03:32 PM
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a reply to: intrptr




Interesting theory,
No. Not really. Not if you have a bit of understanding on what it takes to create an uncontrolled chain reaction and the design of the RTG.


Something has to account for the stain on Jupiter at that time, though. Some kind of dirty fission event, could be one possible cause.
Or probably it was a comet.
edit on 1/2/2016 by Phage because: (no reason given)




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