Jump to content

Thin Film Isotope Nuclear Engine Rocket (TFINER)


NASA

Recommended Posts

  • Publishers

3 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)

Labeled Thin film isotope nuclear engine rocket in space with sun in the background.
Graphic depiction of Thin Film Isotope Nuclear Engine Rocket (TFINER)
James Bickford

James Bickford
Charles Stark Draper Laboratory

New exciting missions, such as a rendezvous with a passing interstellar object, or a multi-target observing effort at the solar gravitational focus, require velocities that are well in excess of conventional rocketry. Exotic solar sail approaches may enable reaching the required distant localities, but are unable to then make the required propulsive maneuvers in deep space. Nuclear rockets are large and expensive systems with marginal capability to reach the location. In contrast, we propose a thin film nuclear isotope engine with sufficient capability to search, rendezvous and then return samples from distant and rapidly moving interstellar objects.

The same technology allows a gravitational lens telescope to be repointed so a single mission could observe numerous high-value targets.

The basic concept is to manufacture thin sheets of a radioactive isotope and directly use the momentum of its decay products to generate thrust. The baseline design is a ~10-micron thick Thorium-228 radioisotope film which undergoes alpha decay with a halflife of 1.9 years. The subsequent decay chain cascade produces daughter products with four additional alpha emissions that have halflives between 300ns and 3 days. A thrust is produced when one side of the thin film is coated with a ~50-micron thick absorber that captures forward emissions. Multiple “stages” consisting of longer half-life isotopes (e.g. Ac-227) can be combined to maximize the velocity over extended mission timelines.

Key differentiators of the concepts are:

• Cascading isotope decay chains (Thorium cycle) increases performance by ~500%

• Multiple ‘stages’ (materials) increases delta-V and lifetime without reducing thrust

• Thrust sheet reconfiguration enables active thrust vectoring and spacecraft maneuvers

• Substrate thermo-electrics can generate excess electrical power (e.g. ~50 kW @ eff=1%)

• A substrate beta emitter can be used for charge neutralization or to induce a voltage bias that preferentially directs exhaust emissions and/or to exploit the outbound solar wind

Leveraging 30kg of radioisotope (comparable to that launched on previous missions) spread over ~250 m^2 of area would provide more than 150 km/sec of delta-V to a 30 kg payload. Multiple such systems could be inserted into a solar escape trajectory with a single conventional launch vehicle allowing local search and rendezvous operations in the outer solar system. The system is scalable to other payloads and missions. Key advantages are:

• Ability to reach a velocity greater than 100 km/sec with spare capacity for rendezvous operations around objects outside the solar

system including options for sample return.

• Simple design based on known physics and well-known materials

• Scalable to smaller payloads (sensors) or to larger missions (e.g., telescopes)

• Novel ability to reach deep space (> 150 AU) very quickly and then continue aggressive maneuvers (> 100 km/sec) for dim object search/rendezvous and/or retargeting telescopes at the solar gravitational focus over a period of years.

2024 Phase I Selection

View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Similar Topics

    • By NASA
      NASA’s Pegasus barge delivers the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket’s core stage for the 2022 Artemis I mission to the turn basin at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in April 2021. Credits: NASA/Michael Downs Media are invited in late July to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see progress on the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) Moon rocket as preparations continue for the Artemis II test flight around the Moon.
      Participants joining the multi-day events will see the arrival and unloading of the 212-foot-tall SLS core stage at the center’s turn basin before it is transported to the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building. The stage will arrive on NASA’s Pegasus barge from the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where it was manufactured and assembled.
      Media also will see the twin pair of solid rocket boosters inside the Rotation, Processing, and Surge Facility at the spaceport, where NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program is processing the motor segments in preparation for rocket assembly. NASA and industry subject matter experts will be available to answer questions. At launch, the SLS rocket’s two solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 engines, located at the base of its core stage, will produce 8.8 million pounds of thrust to send the first crewed mission of the Artemis campaign around the Moon.
      Media interested in participating must apply for credentials at:
      https://media.ksc.nasa.gov
      To receive credentials, international media must apply by Friday, June 28, and U.S. citizens must apply by Thursday, July 5.
      Credentialed media will receive a confirmation email upon approval, along with additional information about the specific date for the activities when they are finalized. NASA’s media accreditation policy is available online. For questions about accreditation, please email ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov. For other questions, please contact Kennedy’s newsroom at: 321-867-2468.
      Para obtener información sobre cobertura en español en el Centro Espacial Kennedy o si desea solicitar entrevistas en español, comuníquese con Antonia Jaramillo o Messod Bendayan a: antonia.jaramillobotero@nasa.gov o messod.c.bendayan@nasa.gov.
      The approximately 10-day Artemis II flight will test NASA’s SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft, and ground systems for the first time with astronauts and will pave the way for lunar surface missions, including landing the first woman, first person of color, and first international partner astronaut on the Moon.
      Learn more about Artemis at:
      www.nasa.gov/artemis/
      -end-
      Rachel Kraft 
      Headquarters, Washington 
      281-358-1100  
      rachel.h.kraft@nasa.gov  
      Tiffany Fairley/Antonia Jaramillo
      Kennedy Space Center, Florida
      321-867-2468
      tiffany.l.fairley@nasa.gov/antonia.jaramillobotero@nasa.gov
      Share
      Details
      Last Updated Jun 14, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Artemis 2 Artemis Humans in Space Kennedy Space Center Space Launch System (SLS) View the full article
    • By NASA
      2 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      Credits: Downtown Huntsville Inc. NASA in the Park is coming back to Big Spring Park East in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT. The event is free and open to the public.
      NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, its partners, and collaborators will fill the park with space exhibits, music, food vendors, and hands-on activities for all ages. Marshall is teaming up with Downtown Huntsville Inc. for this unique celebration of space and the Rocket City.
      “NASA in the Park gives us the opportunity to bring our work outside the gates of Redstone Arsenal and thank the community for their continuing support,” Marshall Director Joseph Pelfrey said. “It’s the first time we’ve held the event since 2018, and we look forward to sharing this experience with everyone.”
      Pelfrey will kick the event off with local leaders on the main stage. NASA speakers will spotlight topics ranging from space habitats to solar sails, and local rock band Five by Five will perform throughout the day.
      “NASA Marshall is leading the way in this new era of space exploration, for the benefit of all humankind,” Pelfrey said. “We are proud members of the Rocket City community, which has helped us push the boundaries of science, technology, and engineering for nearly 65 years.”
      To learn more about Marshall, visit:
      www.nasa.gov/marshall
      Download
      NASA in the Park Poster
      Jun 13, 2024
      PDF (4.09 MB)
      Molly Porter
      Marshall Space Flight Center
      256-424-5158
      molly.a.porter@nasa.gov
      Share
      Details
      Last Updated Jun 13, 2024 LocationMarshall Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Marshall Space Flight Center Explore More
      4 min read California Teams Win $1.5 Million in NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge
      Article 2 hours ago 25 min read The Marshall Star for June 12, 2024
      Article 21 hours ago 4 min read Coming in Hot — NASA’s Chandra Checks Habitability of Exoplanets
      Article 1 day ago Keep Exploring Discover Related Topics
      Missions
      Humans in Space
      Climate Change
      Solar System
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      1 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      This June 2021 aerial photograph shows the coastal launch range at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Atlantic Ocean is at the right side of this image, and nearby Chincoteague and Assateague islands are at upper left and right, respectively. A subset of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops is the agency’s only owned-and-operated launch range. Shore replenishment and elevated infrastructure at the range are incorporated into Goddard’s recently approved master plan.Courtesy Patrick J. Hendrickson; used with permission A suborbital rocket is scheduled for launch the week of June 10-17 from NASA’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This launch is supporting the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Port Hueneme Division’s White Sands Detachment, other Department of Defense organizations, industry, and academia.
      No real-time launch status updates will be available. The launch will not be livestreamed nor will launch status updates be provided during the countdown. 
      The rocket launch may be visible from the Chesapeake Bay region.
      Share
      Details
      Last Updated Jun 10, 2024 EditorAmy BarraContactAmy Barraamy.l.barra@nasa.govLocationWallops Flight Facility Related Terms
      Wallops Flight Facility Sounding Rockets Explore More
      1 min read NASA Wallops Visitor Center Extended Hours June 12
      Article 6 days ago 4 min read NASA Mission Flies Over Arctic to Study Sea Ice Melt Causes
      Article 1 week ago 2 min read NASA Goddard, Maryland Sign Memo to Boost State’s Aerospace Sector
      Article 2 weeks ago View the full article
    • By NASA
      The core stage is the backbone of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket that will help power NASA’s Artemis II mission to send a crew of four astronauts around the Moon in 2025. Here, the core stage is currently behind scaffolding to allow work to continue at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The stage’s two massive propellant tanks hold a collective 733,000 gallons of liquid propellant to power the four RS-25 engines at its base. Following hardware acceptance reviews and final checkouts, the stage will be readied for delivery via the agency’s Pegasus barge to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Artemis II launch preparations. (NASA/ Eric Bordelon) NASA will roll the fully assembled core stage for the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket that will launch the first crewed Artemis mission out of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans in mid-July. The 212-foot-tall stage will be loaded on the agency’s Pegasus barge for delivery to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
      Media will have the opportunity to capture images and video, hear remarks from agency and industry leadership, and speak to subject matter experts with NASA and its Artemis industry partners as crews move the rocket stage to the Pegasus barge.
      NASA will provide additional information on specific timing later, along with interview opportunities. This event is open to U.S. and international media. International media must apply by June 14. U.S. media must apply by July 3. The agency’s media credentialing policy is available online.  
      Interested media must contact Corinne Beckinger at corinne.m.beckinger@nasa.gov and Craig Betbeze at craig.c.betbeze@nasa.gov. Registered media will receive a confirmation by email.
      The rocket stage with its four RS-25 engines will provide more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis II mission. Once at Kennedy, teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program will finish outfitting the stage and prepare it for stacking and launch. Artemis II is currently scheduled for launch in September 2025.
      Building, assembling, and transporting the core stage is a collaborative process for NASA, Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and lead RS-25 engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3 Harris Technologies company.
      NASA is working to land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the Moon under the agency’s Artemis campaign. The SLS rocket is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, supporting ground systems, advanced spacesuits and rovers, the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. The SLS rocket is the only rocket designed to send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single launch.
      Learn more about NASA’s Artemis campaign:
      https://www.nasa.gov/artemis/
      -end- 
      Rachel Kraft
      NASA Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1100
      rachel.h.kraft@nasa.gov
      Corinne Beckinger 
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. 
      256-544-0034
      corinne.m.beckinger@nasa.gov 
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      NASA will roll the fully assembled core stage for the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket that will launch the first crewed Artemis mission out of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans in mid-July. The 212-foot-tall stage will be loaded on the agency’s Pegasus barge for delivery to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
      Media will have the opportunity to capture images and video, hear remarks from agency and industry leadership, and speak to subject matter experts with NASA and its Artemis industry partners as crews move the rocket stage to the Pegasus barge.
      The core stage is the backbone of the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket that will help power NASA’s Artemis II mission to send a crew of four astronauts around the Moon in 2025. Here, the core stage is currently behind scaffolding to allow work to continue at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The stage’s two massive propellant tanks hold a collective 733,000 gallons of liquid propellant to power the four RS-25 engines at its base. Following hardware acceptance reviews and final checkouts, the stage will be readied for delivery via the agency’s Pegasus barge to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Artemis II launch preparations. NASA will provide additional information on specific timing later, along with interview opportunities. This event is open to U.S. and international media. International media must apply by June 14. U.S. media must apply by July 3. The agency’s media credentialing policy is available online.  
      Interested media must contact Corinne Beckinger at corinne.m.beckinger@nasa.gov and Craig Betbeze at craig.c.betbeze@nasa.gov. Registered media will receive a confirmation by email.
      The rocket stage with its four RS-25 engines will provide more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis II mission. Once at Kennedy, teams with NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program will finish outfitting the stage and prepare it for stacking and launch. Artemis II is currently scheduled for launch in September 2025.
      Building, assembling, and transporting the core stage is a collaborative process for NASA, Boeing, the core stage lead contractor, and lead RS-25 engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3 Harris Technologies company.
      NASA is working to land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the Moon under the agency’s Artemis campaign. The SLS rocket is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the Orion spacecraft, supporting ground systems, advanced spacesuits and rovers, the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. The SLS rocket is the only rocket designed to send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single launch.
      Learn more about NASA’s Artemis campaign:
      News Media Contact
      Rachel Kraft
      NASA Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1100
      rachel.h.kraft@nasa.gov
      Corinne Beckinger
      Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
      256-544-0034
      corinne.m.beckinger@nasa.gov
      View the full article
  • Check out these Videos

×
×
  • Create New...