Nuclear thermal propulsion, which uses heat from nuclear reactions as fuel, could be used one day in human spaceflight, possibly even for missions to Mars. Its development, however, poses a challenge. The materials used must be able to withstand high heat and bombardment of high-energy particles on a regular basis.
Will Searight, a nuclear engineering doctoral student at penn State, is contributing to research that could make these advancements more feasible. He published findings from a preliminary design simulation in Fusion Science and Technology, a publication of the American Nuclear Society.
To better investigate nuclear thermal propulsion, Searight simulated a small-scale laboratory experiment known as a hydrogen test loop. The setup mimics a reactor’s operation in space, where…
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