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U.S. considers plutonium space rockets

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posted on Sep, 2 2005 @ 03:51 PM
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SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) -- The United States is poised to produce plutonium-238 for the first time since the end of the Cold War but it will be used for space missions, not weapons, officials said this week.

www.cnn.com...

All well and good until one goes BOOM in low Earth atmosphere. Still, all in all, I suppose a good way to power space vehicles. What does everyone else here think?




posted on Sep, 2 2005 @ 03:53 PM
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I found these facts while researching Plutonium-238. Facts from NPR (link provided)

Facts About Plutonium

· Plutonium in its pure form is a radioactive material about twice as dense as lead. Essentially all the plutonium on the planet is man-made, created over the last six decades through fissionable materials. Several plutonium isotopes exist, all of which are radioactive.

· Plutonium-238 has been described as 280 times more radioactive than the isotope plutonium-239, the type used to make atomic bombs.

· According to the Department of Energy, plutonium only poses a health hazard if it is taken into the body. Inhalation poses the highest risk. When inhaled, a significant fraction of plutonium moves from the lungs through the blood to other organs. Cancer resulting from radiation is the main health risk.

www.npr.org...



posted on Sep, 2 2005 @ 03:57 PM
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A view of radioactive waste inside a "hot cell" at Idaho National Laboratory. The room is too radioactive for human habitation; operators use mechanical arms to handle items inside. Liquid between the panes of glass in this window blocks radiation.

(courtesy of Martin Kaste, NPR)



posted on Sep, 2 2005 @ 08:05 PM
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Good research there..
Isn't this how the Voyagers were powered, RTG's?
Both of which are still functioning after all these decades..

If we decide to venture out past Mars..This is the only way to go currently.

One thing in the article bothered me though..Idaho wants to make sure the waste is moved out of state. Which really means into MY state LOL..Nevada..

I need to read more on this..But right now, I THINK I am for it..


jra

posted on Sep, 2 2005 @ 08:35 PM
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Originally posted by 12 12 2012
All well and good until one goes BOOM in low Earth atmosphere. Still, all in all, I suppose a good way to power space vehicles. What does everyone else here think?


Just because it's nuclear powered, doesn't mean it will explode like a nuclear bomb if something bad happens, as far as I know. I think the worst thing that could happen would be a meltdown. But yes, I do think an excellent way to power space ships. The US navy uses a lot of nuclear powered ships. It seems logical to start using them in space too.



posted on Sep, 2 2005 @ 10:10 PM
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Yeah not bad way to power spaces ships. But what is the leak durind the flight and if some how the astronauts inhalate it they gonna have some serious damages to there body. And imagine if the same thing happen that with Colombia.... all that radiation.


Thanks



posted on Sep, 3 2005 @ 02:19 AM
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Plutonium is the worst thing man has ever produced. Uranium is a little better though.



posted on Sep, 3 2005 @ 02:40 AM
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12 12 2012 - It isn't possible for one to go boom. It is almost a vanishingly small probability that even if an isotope powered satellite blew up or crashed to Earth that any of the plutonium would get scattered or escape confinement. The technology behind plutonium powered satellites goes back many years. It is very mature, robust and safe technology, that is needed for systems going where sunlight is weak and where batteries would not last, or be powerful enough.



posted on Sep, 3 2005 @ 04:39 AM
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would such a craft be able to accelerate quickly?



posted on Sep, 3 2005 @ 04:46 AM
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The Director,
The nuclear power is not used for acceleration, in this case.
Thats all done with your "standard" chemical rocket.

The plutonium is used to produce heat through radioactive decay...Which is then converted to electrical power..( I think by way of devices called thermocouples).



posted on Sep, 3 2005 @ 02:29 PM
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Ah I see. Thanks


E_T

posted on Sep, 3 2005 @ 04:44 PM
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Originally posted by jra
Just because it's nuclear powered, doesn't mean it will explode like a nuclear bomb if something bad happens, as far as I know. I think the worst thing that could happen would be a meltdown. But yes, I do think an excellent way to power space ships. The US navy uses a lot of nuclear powered ships. It seems logical to start using them in space too.
Wrong, this doesn't have anything to do with nuclear reactors.
RTGs are based to heat released by natural decaying of some radioactive element. And there's no way they could "meltdown", radioactive content has sub-critical density which prevents any chain reaction.


But actually these could be also "used" in propulsion, ion thrusters are much more effective compared to chemical reaction rockets which use propellant very sparingly. (couple kilograms is enough for months)
Unlike chemical rockets ion thrusters use electric field to accelerate small amount of ions to very high speeds which gives much better specific impulse, this means they require electricity to work and that's where RTG has its good points: it produces electricity without sunlight. Combined with RTG's continuous electricity output ion thrusters would be very effective in probes send to outer solar system... they would be also much more capable reaching farther planets without using gravitational slingshot required by chemical rocket propelled probes.



posted on Sep, 10 2005 @ 09:56 PM
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ya bet me to it E_T

although from this article it sounded as if it was to be used as a power plant, not propulsion



posted on Sep, 10 2005 @ 10:19 PM
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These things are much safer then nuclear reactors as E_T explained. But putting nuclear reactors might be the way to go in the future. Nuclear energy is just so much more powerful for its size then any chemical rocket. Even better would be a nuclear fusion system.

"A propulsion system using nuclear fusion would be 10 million times more powerful than chemical rockets and would emit less radiation."

Nobody has been able to get a gain of energy out of fusion so far though, so that might be a long way off.

Also if we ever want to see if theres any life in the ocean on Europa then
we will have to have some type of nuclear reactor on the probe. Its really the only way we could melt through the miles of ice.

www.bbc.co.uk... ght/nuclearpower.shtml



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