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Mars Reachable in 45 Days – Advanced Nuclear Propulsion System Concept Proposed

A new nuclear propulsion system concept could allow a manned rocket to travel from Earth to Mars in just 45 days. One of the 14 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NAIC) Phase I in 2023 is the concept of a nuclear-powered rocket engine that will enable high-speed travel to Mars. This new concept is a bimodal combination of nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) and nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) using a wave rotor topping cycle, as NASA introduced in a January 10, 2023 blog post. A nuclear propulsion system. This idea, titled “New Class of Bimodal NTP/NEP with a Wave Rotor Topping Cycle Enabling Fast Transit to Mars,” was proposed by Professor Ryan Gosse and others at the University of Florida.

NTP is recognized as a suitable propulsion technology for manned rockets in the solar system. The state-of-the-art NTP cycle is based on the technology of NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application. Note: NASA’s nuclear rocket engine program that ended in 1972). 1 kg = time to continuously generate 9.8 N) can be realized in 900 seconds, which is double that of chemical rockets. However, NTP has the problem of not having a high initial-to-final-mass ratio for missions that require high delta-V. On the other hand, the NEP has a very high Isp of 10,000 seconds or more, but low thrust. There is also the problem of heat removal in space, where thermal energy conversion efficiency is low, because a power source is required.

According to this concept, by installing a wave rotor topping cycle, it is possible to achieve an Isp of 1400 to 2000 seconds while maintaining the same thrust as the NTP propulsion of NERVA technology. Furthermore, when combined with the NEP cycle, it is possible to increase the Isp to 1800-4000 seconds with minimal addition of dry mass.

Gosse says the concept could revolutionize the exploration of the solar system by enabling high-speed manned travel to Mars.

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