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Spacecraft powered nuclear fission or fusion delivered by maser
Orbiting Or Earthbound Stations


The work started with the 4 Megawatt generator conventional powered power station, that was to be turned into solar powered power station. The power was to be used to smelt the metal and to decompose Water into Hydrogen and Oxygen for fuels and for breathing. The question then became is this the last use for it. The system was never to have a full 4 Megawatt but in terms of Sun Power the amount is still great. There is a very good description of the set for the power station in The Space Flight Research List page.

The limits of this design that is getting the beam of light to the right place were not favorable. The design I was looking for was for a fully independent plane not a whole Space Transportation System that would require stationary power station either nuclear or conventional powered. The orbiting power stations required for moving out of orbit would at present have to be conventional powered. It is still not legal to have a nuclear device of any kind in space even for transportation purposes. The was one book that held an answer but this was not the type of design I was looking for. It was one of the books in Long's Book Store. But it is not like the one on rocket construction or hypersonic aerodynamics it is just for a certain application. The price about $10. Can you till I debated buying this book for a long time. (1976)

The use of high powered masers (microwave laser) instead of gathered focused light to transport the power to the plane would be a better opition. The maser is of lower power density than a laser but the idea is not to melt metal, it is to power a plane. The wave length of the maser or microwave is such that it can have action of moving electrons in metal. The most efficient from a stand point of specific impulse are engine designs that are electric. Absorbtion or converting of the maser (microwave) energy to electrical power is still a formidable being the main problem.

The use of this with arc heating a gas like hydrogen in space is a good way to get high specific impulse (2000) and still have a relatively high thrust per unit area or thurst to weight ratio. The design is also fairly simple. The main problem being heating or melting of the electrodes. The use of helium inside the atmosphere would make it almost pollution free but the amount of helium need would be high. Any use of helium of this scale should be from earth bond sources. The gathering should be from near earth space. The later designs for the solar collector type have that as a built in.

One of the methods that is more efficient is MHD (Magnetic-Hydrodynamics) models here the thrust is made by accelerating the propellant through a magnetic by the use of electrical current. MHD (Magnetic-Hydrodynamics)is also a method for getting electrical power from any nuclear reactor fission or fusion. At this time in the mid 1970s it was hopped that fusion was going to be possble with in the next 5 years. Since other likely would beat me to that I went to work on a fission desgn. I decided to try working on a Project Nerva type engine. The design I that Carl Sagan would show to the world. The engine was a nuclear core with hydrogen gas passed through to normal rocket nozzle. It was rated at 55,000 pounds of thrust and had a specific impulse rating of 800, that is 800 pounds of thrust per pound of propellant. That design though if over heated would 'spit' out the core or aspirate the core. So, I worked designs that would have multiple ways of preventing this. One effect I liked was using thermal radiation to distribute the heat at those high temperatures. Instead of passing the gas through 'tube' like structures or holes through the core put multiple wall of refractory metals. There by, leaving most of the material outside the path of the gas and the forces that they generate. The use of moveable sections to clear throat and also to make it sub critical. This was taking the earlier method one step farther.

Because of the neutron leakage (~~10E16 times time volume of reactive material in cubic centimeters). No free person will leave the planet this way or travel with this kind of engine. It is not even advisable for use by anyone.

Now, with all that could be done the only 'safe' nuclear fission system would be a closed system, that is none of the particles and most of the radiation gets out of the reactor area. This lead to the study of MHD (Magnetic-Hydrodynamics) as a power converter and the study of the use of thin metal skins or sheetsfor cooling gases from the MHD (Magneto-Hydrodynamics) out to the nuclear reactor. So that there was a fail safe incase over pressure the the valve design for the catapult would be the valve between the high pressure area and the thin metal skins. The amount of gas or plasma being also a limiting factor for the maximum pressure with in the high pressure area. The study of the thin metal sheets for this use is why I knew what density or weight I would have per square foot. Nothing is a waste.

Bob L. Petersen




Bob L. Petersen

Bob Petersen
I said 6000 pages and I meant it.

Spacecraft powered nuclear fission or fusion delivered by maser
Orbiting Or Earthbound Stations