Feb 192018

The NERVA nuclear rocket, studied throughout the sixties into the early 1970’s, would have been a great way to propel spacecraft. But a nuclear rocket is not the same sort of reactor as is generally designed for use in space to generate electrical power. A NERVA can produce *gigawatts* of thermal energy, energy which is carried away with the high mass flow rate of the hydrogen propellant. Power reactors, on the other hand, are generally designed for several orders of magnitude lower thermal power… a few thermal megawatts, perhaps, to produce a few hundred kilowatts of electricity.

However, the fact remains that a nuclear rocket *is* a nuclear reactor. For most missions it would burn for a few minutes, at most perhaps few hours, out of a mission lasting perhaps years. It is thus a bit of a shame to waste all that potential. So over the decades many studies have been made for using a nuclear rocket as a power generator .

One such study was reported by Aerojet in 1970. The abstract is HERE, the direct PDF download if HERE.

In this study, the NERVA would pump out 1,500 thermal megawatts during the propulsion phase(producing 75,000 pounds of thrust), dropping to 250 to 505 thermal kilowatts during the power generation phase, enough to create 25 kilowatts of electricity. This would be a very low-power, low-temperature use of the reactor, reducing system efficiency… but still, making use of a reactor that was already there, and not noticeably using up the fission fuel in the reactor. The reactor would be run at very lower power levels and hydrogen would flow through a closed loop built into the reactor; the warmed gaseous hydrogen would flow through a turbogenerator to create electricity; the warm hydrogen would then pass through a radiator built on the outer surface of the hydrogen tank itself.

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 Posted by at 3:26 pm
Feb 132018

Now available: two new US Aerospace Projects issues. Cover art was provided by Rob Parthoens, www.baroba.be

US VTOL Projects #2

US VTOL Projects #2 is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #2 includes:

  • SOS Interceptor: A US Navy Mach 3 aircraft with jettisonable wings
  • Lockheed GL-224-3: A small battlefield surveillance and ground attack plane
  • Phalanx Dragon MP-18: An unconventional small civilian transport
  • Lockheed L-161-1: An early concept for a variable geometry roadable helicopter
  • GE Supersonic V/STOL: A supersonic strike fighter with flip-out lift fans
  • Convair ANP-VTOL: A nuclear-powered ground-effect craft of the Navy of unusual configuration
  • Piasecki 16H-3: A compound helicopter for high speed passenger transport
  • Boeing Vertol Model 147: A tilt-wing close support fire support design for the US Army

USVP #2 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:


US Research & Recon Projects #2

US Research & Recon Projects #2 is now available (see HERE for the entire series). Issue #2 includes:

  • Lockheed A-1: The first true design leading to the SR-71
  • Bell MX-2147 Model 105: The high altitude “X-16”
  • Boeing/CRC/AMROC X-34 Reference Configuration: A reusable launcher test vehicle
  • Martin Model 159: A scout/observation float plane
  • NASA-Langley Low-Boom Demonstrator: a recent design to demonstrate quiet SST tech
  • McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 Super 80 Propfan Configuration 1: A fuel efficient transport demo
  • Convair “HAZEL” MC-10: An inflatable Mach 3 plane for the Navy
  • Republic Manned Hypersonic Reconnaissance Vehicle: an early scramjet concept


USRP #2 can be downloaded as a PDF file for only $4:


 Posted by at 11:57 am
Feb 122018

We’ve trashed the oceans; now we are turning space into a junkyard for billionaires

Experts say rocket emissions affect our climate and cause ozone loss, yet too few people seem to care

Unless you think that that opening line doesn’t really hammer home the point, there’s this:

You might be tempted to dismiss this as an expensive publicity stunt by a billionaire playboy with too much time on his hands. But in reality it’s an important step towards a time when space travel for your average indolent millionaire will become commonplace. It will probably become another way of managing your finances when Mars inevitably becomes the ultimate off-shore tax haven.

Quite what our fetish for space exploration and spending billions on the technology required to feed this does to the environment is a serious matter. There’s a dissonance emerging here. On Earth, we’re organising summits and setting up carbon footprint-reduction targets all over the shop. Yet, up in yonder outer space we’ve established a giant garbage dump replete with huge hulks of rusting metal and, as of last week, a $200k American sports car.

Indeed, the whole issue of rocket emissions needs to be considered if we’re serious about the environment.

This is symptomatic of the modern luddite, repeating the latest version of the tired old “why spend money on space when we still have problems here on Earth” refrain. These monstrous reprobates were wrong fifty years ago when they managed to kill off Apollo and the first good chance for the conquest of space; they’re even more wrong now as they try to kill off what may well be not only the best, but perhaps the *last* opportunity for western civilization to save itself. Kill it off now with environmental laws and regulations and treaties, as the nattering chicken livered assassin of joy who wrote that opinion piece for the execrable “The Guardian” would have, and we’ll never get the chance again in any of our lifetimes. The Chinese might conquer the universe, planting their red flag of communist genocide on every chunk of rock within a hundred AU, but we’ll be stuck here in ever-increasing malaise, besieged by hopelessness and diminishing horizons, dark age Surt worshippers and astrologers and flat Earthers. Gormless chickenshittery in the face of THE ENTIRE DAMNED UNIVERSE should not be tolerated, much less celebrated, even less paid for. The yammering pinhead even finished off his ill-informed and ill-intentioned piece by suggesting that space aliens are mad at us for ” disfiguring their neighbourhood with obsolete metal junk.”

Sadly, the English language is simply far too limiting to get across the level of disdain and dislike I have for people who get paid to try to convince the western world to cut itself off at the knees.

 Posted by at 12:19 am
Feb 102018

If’n ya want details of the Tesla Roadsters orbit…


The resulting wall-o-data is below the break. Useful for astronomers, but not very enlightening for the layman. Anybody know of a site that cranks out orbital trajectory plots, showing the arrangement of selected elements for whatever date in the future? The JPL Impact Risks site used to be really good for that sort of thing, but it requires a Java applet that makes my computer security system just go “nope.”

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:48 pm
Feb 102018

Fake news! Fake news! The Russians are involved, somehow!

SpaceX Hired Company to Destroy Floating GovSat Booster, Not USAF

The latest journalization has it that SpaceX initially contacted the USAF to take care of their errant floater, but in the end hired commercial “demolition experts” to do the job.

Once again, no details are provided. Obviously, an A-10 opening up a can of BRRRRRRRRRT or a B-1 laying down a bunch of laser guided bombs are no longer options. But one can now imagine a whole range of other options. Perhaps the demolition expert was an 80’s aficionado with a great big speedboat and Nothing Left To Lose, and he actually rammed the Falcon 9 at high speed leading to a gigantic orange fireball…

Probably not, I suppose.

 Posted by at 5:17 pm
Feb 082018

Not the Heavy launched a few days ago, but the previous Falcon 9, launched a week ago and soft-landed in the water.

Air Force Strike Takes Out SpaceX’s Floating GovSat Booster

The booster tested high retrothrust landing. Like a lot of SpaceX’s successful tests, they didn’t expect the booster to survive virtually intact, so they didn’t have a plan in place to recover the thing. Officially that made it a hazard to navigation; boosters like this have carbon over-wrapped high pressure helium tanks and other splodey bits. Unofficially, I wonder if the real reason was a desire to keep the booster from falling into nefarious hands… not so much the likes of United Launch Alliance, but more like Bond villains or the Chinese government (but I repeat myself).

Exactly how the Chinese or SPECTRE would go about snagging a floatign rocket booster is anyone guess. The rational approach would be to pre-position a modified cargo vessel equipped with cranes and such… hardly likely to go un-noticed. Less likely would be to modify a submarine to rise up underneath it, latch on, poke some holes in it, sink and be on its way. Less likely still would be a giant dirigible or seaplane.

These are of course all silly. But then, the CIA paying Howard Hughes to scoop a Soviet ballistic missile sub off the ocean floor was a silly notion as well.

But to the specific topic at hand, I wonder if the strike operation was carried out with laser guided bombs or with gunfire. I suspect the former… a B-1 or B-52 laying waste seems like the sort of excessive drama the situation calls for.

 Posted by at 6:39 pm