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Nuclear Propulsion Could Help Get Humans to Mars Faster

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This is from a NASA press release dated February 12, 2021…

As NASA’s Perseverance rover homes in on the Red Planet, engineers on the ground are furthering potential propulsion technologies for the first human missions to Mars. NASA is looking at two types of nuclear propulsion systems – nuclear electric and nuclear thermal propulsion.

Nuclear electric propulsion systems use propellants much more efficiently than chemical rockets but provide a low amount of thrust. They use a reactor to generate electricity that positively charges gas propellants like xenon or krypton, pushing the ions out through a thruster, which drives the spacecraft forward. Using low thrust efficiently, nuclear electric propulsion systems accelerate spacecraft for extended periods and can propel a Mars mission for a fraction of the propellant of high thrust systems.

Nuclear Propulsion
Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars.
Credits: NASA

Nuclear thermal propulsion technology provides high thrust and twice the propellant efficiency of chemical rockets. The system works by transferring heat from the reactor to a liquid propellant. That heat converts the liquid into a gas, which expands through a nozzle to provide thrust and propel a spacecraft.

NASA, in coordination with the Department of Energy (DOE), is asking industry for preliminary reactor design concepts for a nuclear thermal propulsion system. The agencies plan to fund several efforts to explore different approaches. Future follow-on contracts will generate more detailed reactor designs and build preliminary testing hardware.

“While NASA’s immediate priority is returning humans to the Moon with the Artemis program, we are also investing in ‘tall pole’ technologies that could enable crewed missions to Mars,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “We look forward to seeing what innovations industry offer in nuclear propulsion as well as fission surface power via a forthcoming request for proposals for that technology.”

Human Missions to Mars

To date, only robotic explorers have traveled to Mars, without the need for returning to Earth. Waiting for optimal planetary alignment for the return trip would require astronauts to loiter at Mars for more than a year, stretching the round-trip mission to more than three years.

NASA’s goal is to minimize the time the crew travels between Earth and Mars to as close to two years as is practical. Space nuclear propulsion systems could enable shorter total mission times and provide enhanced flexibility and efficiency for mission designers.

To keep the round-trip crewed mission duration to about two years, at a minimum, NASA is looking at nuclear-enabled transportation systems to facilitate shorter-stay surface missions. The systems would take advantage of optimal planetary alignment for a low-energy transit for one leg of the trip and the new technology’s enhanced performance to make the higher-energy transit for the other leg.

It’s too soon to say what propulsion system will take the first astronauts to Mars, as there remains significant development required for each approach.

Illustration of a spacecraft with a nuclear-enabled propulsion system.

Illustration of a spacecraft with a nuclear-enabled propulsion system. Credits: NASA

Technology Readiness

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, leads the agency’s space nuclear propulsion project in partnership with a DOE team that includes scientists and engineers from Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. STMD’s Technology Demonstration Missions program funds the technology development.

Nuclear electric propulsion builds on NASA’s work maturing solar electric propulsion thrusters and systems for Artemis, as well as the development of fission power for the lunar surface. Significant investment has also been made in relevant fuel and reactor technologies for small, terrestrial reactors that could be adapted to space reactors to power electric propulsion. The U.S. government’s aim to establish a fuel fabrication capability has a range of applications, including nuclear propulsion and fission surface power.

The Nuclear Thermal Rocket Element Environmental Simulator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, tests nuclear rocket fuel prototypes using non-nuclear heating instead of fission.
Credits: NASA/Mick Speer

Nuclear thermal propulsion has been on NASA’s radar for more than 60 years. The new hardware design and development phase pursued through a request for proposals released Feb. 12, 2021, builds on existing efforts to mature crucial elements of a nuclear thermal propulsion system.

NASA, in partnership with DOE, is developing and testing new fuels that use low-enriched uranium for space applications to see how they perform under the extreme thermal and radiation environments needed for nuclear thermal propulsion. NASA is working closely with DOE, industry, and universities to put fuel samples in research reactors at Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) facility and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Nuclear Reactor Laboratory for nuclear testing. The team is also performing non-nuclear testing in simulated reactors at Marshall test facilities.

“The reactor underpinning a nuclear thermal propulsion system is a significant technical challenge due to the very high operating temperatures needed to meet the propulsion performance goals,” explained Anthony Calomino, NASA’s nuclear technology portfolio lead within STMD.

While most of the engine operates at modest temperatures, materials in direct contact with the reactor fuel must be able to survive temperatures above 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA and DOE have been working with industry on a viable approach, and industry will now develop preliminary designs to meet this challenge.

Technology Infusion

“We’re exploring both nuclear electric and nuclear thermal propulsion options for crewed Mars missions,” Calomino said. “Each technology has its unique advantages and challenges that need to be carefully considered when determining the final preference.”

Whichever propulsion system is ultimately chosen, the fundamentals of nuclear propulsion can enable robust and efficient exploration beyond the Moon. NASA will continue to develop, test, and mature various propulsion technologies to reduce risk and inform the Mars transport architecture.

Source: NASA

https://q5i.09c.myftpupload.com/nasa-to-test-nuclear-engine-soon-for-future-mars-missions/

https://q5i.09c.myftpupload.com/category/science/

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  • Rod Washington

    Rod: A creative force, blending words, images, and flavors. Blogger, writer, filmmaker, and photographer. Cooking enthusiast with a sci-fi vision. Passionate about his upcoming series and dedicated to TNC Network. Partnered with Rebecca Washington for a shared journey of love and art.

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Rod: A creative force, blending words, images, and flavors. Blogger, writer, filmmaker, and photographer. Cooking enthusiast with a sci-fi vision. Passionate about his upcoming series and dedicated to TNC Network. Partnered with Rebecca Washington for a shared journey of love and art.

Tech

The Weather Network launches its first advertising campaign using an AI-assisted Avatar

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OAKVILLE, ON, June 11, 2024 /CNW/ – The Weather Network has launched a first-of-kind ad campaign using an AI-Assisted Avatar of their own Content Creator and Presenter, Rachel Schoutsen. The Weather Network partnered with Home Hardware Stores Limited to showcase storefront and local store callouts where Rachel’s AI-Assisted Avatar covers an Ontario summer forecast, plus a summer sale call to action, designed to drive traffic to Home Hardware locations across Ontario.

Watch this video to see Rachel Schoutsen’s avatar in action

Rachel Schoutsen’s avatar in action.

By leveraging advanced AI technologies, The Weather Network is now able to deliver hyper-local forecasts on a larger scale, providing communities and local economies with opportunities to prepare for and respond to weather-related events. The Weather Network’s mission is to keep its users safe and informed with accurate and localized weather information.

“This partnership puts Home Hardware front and centre when Canadians are engaging with weather content and planning for the summer ahead,” said Simon Jennings, CRO, The Weather Network. “Canadians want to know what to expect as they plan their busiest social days and holidays and can purchase the right products for the weather forecast in their area.”

“Home Hardware is a business built on serving small communities across the country and we are proud to support The Weather Network’s innovative efforts to do the same through AI technology,” said Laura Baker, Chief Marketing Officer, Home Hardware Stores Limited. “Our more than 1,000 stores and the Dealers who operate them make it their mission to provide comprehensive support for all our customers’ home improvement needs within their communities. That means helping Canadians complete and enjoy their outdoor home improvement and yard maintenance projects while also preparing for any inclement weather events.”

With a focus on helping users and businesses make informed decisions using cutting-edge technology, The Weather Network is committed to ensuring the use of avatars in its promotional materials aligns with the highest ethical standards. All promotional materials have a clear disclaimer to ensure its viewers are well informed of AI-created content. In addition, employee avatars are used with their consent and an agreement to participate.

“We are excited about this latest innovation and the opportunities it will provide to our consumers and businesses,” said Maureen Rogers, Managing Director Editorial & Public Alerting, The Weather Network. “As with any new product we launch, we value their input and will use it to continuously improve the product to meet their needs and deliver products that exceed their expectations. We are delighted to have partnered with Home Hardware on piloting this new product with us.”

The Weather Network recently launched Your Weather Assistant, a generative AI tool to transform the way people consume weather information. The introduction of its newly developed AI-Assisted Avatar demonstrates Pelmorex Corp.’s, owner of The Weather Network, commitment to innovation as it evolves into an AI-frontiered weather and climate organization.

About Pelmorex Corp.
Pelmorex Corp., founded in 1989, is an international weather information and data management company. Pelmorex owns and operates the weather brands The Weather Network, MétéoMédia, Eltiempo.es, Clima, and Otempo.pt. It also operates Canada’s National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination System, part of Alert Ready. Through constant innovation and entrepreneurship, Pelmorex has grown to reach consumers around the globe, has become one of the largest weather information providers and has broken new ground in providing data solutions and insights to businesses. Through harnessing the value of weather, Pelmorex is driven to make the world smarter and safer for consumers and businesses. 

To learn more, visit pelmorex.com and follow us on X (platform formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and LinkedIn.

About Home Hardware Stores Limited

Founded 60 years ago in St. Jacobs, Ontario, Home Hardware Stores Limited is proudly Canadian and the country’s largest Dealer-owned and operated home improvement retailer with more than 1,000 stores operating under the Home Hardware, Home Building Centre, Home Hardware Building Centre and Home Furniture banners. The Home Hardware Dealer network improves life at home by providing superior home improvement retail experiences through helpful advice and a deep understanding of the communities they serve. Home Hardware Stores Limited is designated as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies and recognized as one of Canada’s Best Employers. More information about the company is available at homehardware.ca.

SOURCE Pelmorex Corp.

https://stmdailynews.com/category/tech

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Space and Tech

NASA’s Newest Spaceplane: Dream Chaser Tenacity Arriving at Kennedy Space Center

Dream Chaser Tenacity arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a milestone in enhancing ISS resupply missions. New era of commercial spaceplanes begins.

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Image Credit: Sierra Space

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser Tenacity has made an exciting arrival at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, marking a significant milestone in NASA’s initiative to enhance commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station. This uncrewed spaceplane, part of a fleet planned by Sierra Space, is set to deliver 7,800 pounds of cargo using a ULA Vulcan rocket for its inaugural mission.

Pre-Launch Testing and Preparation
Before its arrival at Kennedy Space Center, Dream Chaser Tenacity underwent rigorous testing and preparation. From vibration testing to exposure to extreme temperatures and pressures, the spaceplane and its cargo module, Shooting Star, were meticulously prepared for their journey to the ISS.

Final Preparations at Kennedy
Now at Kennedy Space Center, Dream Chaser Tenacity is undergoing final testing and prelaunch processing inside the Space Systems Processing Facility. The spaceplane is set to launch atop a ULA Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, marking the beginning of its mission to deliver cargo to the orbiting laboratory.

Design and Capabilities
With its lifting body design and unique winged structure, Dream Chaser is capable of transporting cargo to and from low Earth orbit and landing on a runway similar to NASA’s space shuttle. The spaceplane, along with the Shooting Star cargo module, offers a versatile and efficient means of resupplying the ISS.

Certification and In-Orbit Operations
Once in orbit, Dream Chaser Tenacity will undergo a series of demonstrations to showcase its maneuverability and docking capabilities. After delivering cargo to the ISS and completing its mission, the spaceplane will return to Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility for inspection and preparation for future missions.

The arrival of Dream Chaser Tenacity at Kennedy Space Center heralds a new era in commercial resupply missions to the ISS, showcasing the capabilities of Sierra Space’s innovative spaceplane technology. As NASA continues to expand its partnerships with commercial providers, the Dream Chaser fleet stands ready to support the agency’s goals in low Earth orbit exploration.

https://www.sierraspace.com/dream-chaser-spaceplane/uncrewed-cargo-spacecraft

https://stmdailynews.com/category/science

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  • Rod Washington

    Rod: A creative force, blending words, images, and flavors. Blogger, writer, filmmaker, and photographer. Cooking enthusiast with a sci-fi vision. Passionate about his upcoming series and dedicated to TNC Network. Partnered with Rebecca Washington for a shared journey of love and art.

    View all posts

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Space and Tech

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches First Crewed Starliner

“The first human spaceflight launch signifies the start of a new era for ULA.”

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CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. /PRNewswire/ — For the first time in history, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V carrying NASA astronauts aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner lifted off on June 5 at 10:52 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The launch of NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams marks the return of human spaceflight to Cape Canaveral and extends the Atlas legacy, echoing the launch of U.S. astronaut John Glenn aboard a heritage Atlas LV-3B rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1962.

The inaugural human spaceflight launch marks the beginning of a new era for ULA
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams aboard the Boeing Starliner spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 10:52 a.m. EDT on June 5, 2024. Photos by United Launch Alliance

“Safety is a critical part of the ULA decision-making process, and we are deeply honored to have been entrusted with the responsibility of starting the astronauts on their journey to the International Space Station, one that we will watching throughout their mission,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “ULA has performed a tremendous amount of work in conjunction with our partners at Boeing and NASA to ensure our designs provide the highest level of safety to the crew and we will continue to prioritize our dedication to safety as we look forward to future launches in support of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.”

While the mission is continuing, the Atlas V rocket’s job is complete and safely delivered the Starliner and crew to a 98-nautical mile (nmi) sub-orbital trajectory. Following separation from the Atlas V, the Starliner engines ignited to place the crew on their orbital path to the space station.

“My congratulations and sincerest gratitude to our unrivaled team and exceptional partners on the launch of a new era in human spaceflight aboard one of the most reliable rockets in the world,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “It’s a profound honor to assist in enabling assured reliability and redundancy of crewed launches.”

All rockets are not created equal. ULA is the nation’s most experienced, reliable and accurate launch service provider delivering unmatched value, a tireless drive to improve, and commitment to the extraordinary. Vulcan’s inaugural launch marked the beginning of a new era of space capabilities and provides higher performance and greater affordability while offering the world’s only high energy architecture rocket to deliver any payload, at any time, to any orbit.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com and join the conversation on social media @ulalaunch.
Mission webpage
Mission Photo Album Link.

SOURCE United Launch Alliance (ULA)

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