NASA intended to send it’s first human crew to Mars in 2030. But there is a new invention that can bring this plan to pass faster. It would make the over 40 million mile mission in three months – instead of the current seven.
A nuclear-powered engine is being invented by Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies, a Seattle-based tech company. And this alleges to be stabler and more credible than the former nuclear propulsion (NTP), together with twice the rocket efficiency as a chemical compulsion.
The system makes use of a specialized fuel modeled with high-assay low-enriched uranium that the tech company asserts is more durable than normal nuclear fuels and can function at high temperatures.
This concept was originally developed for NASA, but the tech company points out that it could be employed for commercial entities to take tourists to another planets in half the time.
Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USN-Tech) just gave the concept image and attributes to NASA, which it assumes should be able to take over the market as the recent chemical rockets are attaining their limit.
Several companies and research groups have reached out to NASA with new and innovated designs, but they could not meet up because many are not logical.
Dr. Michael Eades, principal engineer at USNC-Tech, said: ‘We want to lead the effort to open new frontiers in space, and do it quickly and safely.’
‘Our engine maximizes the use of proven technology, eliminates failure modes of previous NTP concepts, and has a specific impulse more than twice that of chemical systems.’
It appeared that USN-Tech was distinct from the rest because of the company’s use of a Completely Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM) fuel for the reactor.
The technology is founded on a reprocessed variant of nuclear material, High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU), which is utilized to power nuclear reactors and is enriched by 20 percent.
The firm recommends loading the fuel into coated fragments of zirconium carbide, as this would enable the system to tolerate high-temperatures without burning through too much fuel.
Utilizing low quantities of HALEU, this distinctive NTP concept produces high thrust and specific impulse formerly only possible through high-enriched uranium.
USNC-Tech also reports that the FCM fuel leverages pre-existing supply chains and manufacturing facilities utilized by terrestrial nuclear reactor developers, decreasing production risks and facilitating sustainable industry involvement.
‘Key to USNC-Tech’s design is a conscious overlap between terrestrial and space reactor technologies.’ Said Dr. Paolo Venneri, CEO of USNC-Tech.
‘This allows us to leverage the advancements in nuclear technology and infrastructure from terrestrial systems and apply them to our space reactors.’
NASA has not slated a date for the first human mission to Mars, but is working companies for when the launch eventually takes place.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein shared in a blog post: ‘We’re planning for our first round-trip voyage to Mars to take about two years using advanced propulsion systems to enable a faster journey while limiting radiation exposure for our astronauts and other mission risks.
‘Our preferred launch window will give the crew about 30 days on the Martian surface, which is ample time to search for life on another world.’
‘Other options could require crew to be on the surface for more than a year and away from Earth for as long as three years, but it will be a long time before we have the funding, technology, supplies, and capabilities to sustain such a mission.’