Broadcast 1697 (Special Edition)

23 Jan 2012 Dr. Steven Howe
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Guest: Dr. Steven Howe. Topics: space nuclear power for power & propulsion systems, & radioisotope power generators. You are invited to comment, ask questions, & discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, & any discussion must be relevant & applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. You will want to follow the websites along with our guest: http://csnr.usra.edu/index.html & www.usra.edu. If you are interested in the CSNR 2012 Summer Fellowship Program, you can learn more & apply no later than March 9, 2012 from CSNR at http://csnr.usra.edu/2012_summer_app2.html. We welcomed Dr. Howe to the program to discuss space nuclear power. We started out with an overview of both the Center for Space Nuclear Research & the Universities Space Research Association. Dr. Howe then told us that they were working on nuclear rockets with the Aerojet Corporation, focusing on a new fuel form away from based on tungsten. During our discussion, he had much to say about this fuel, its advantages, & its testing. He also talked about ISP & thrust to weight ratios. He was asked about testing & we learned they plan on doing ground tests at the Nevada Test Site. Listen to why their tests will be different from earlier nuclear rocket engine tests & how they are expelling the exhaust into the ground. You will hear There is no radiation, only hydrogen which bleeds into the rock strata. We also talked about public concern for nuclear power in space, then we shifted our focus to a nuclear rocket mission to Mars. Dr. Howe told us about the three year Mars mission but also said with a nuclear rocket a one year mission would be possible. We also talked about the costs for developing the nuclear rocket as well as the possibility of other countries doing it before the U.S. Next, we talked about the use of uranium & even the possibility of thorium, including why thorium is not useful for weapons. One listener question asked about the Mars Direct method & insitu resource utilization. Dr. Howe supported the use of insitu but suggested it for later trips as it might be too risky for the initial trips. He then described their Mars Hopper project which will certainly interest us all. As this segment ended, we talked about using the nuclear rocket for going to the Moon & for a lunar & even Martian habitat. As we started our second segment, Dr. Howe was asked if QuickLaunch could be useful. Dr. Dewar sent in a clarification note about U-233 as a byproduct of thorium & why its a problem for weapons. In talking about a lunar habitat, Dr. Howe told us about the NASA Fission Surface Power Program (FSP). We also talked about using the new tungsten fuel for habitats. He told us about the Nuclear Thermal Mars Sample Mission Study that compared the nuclear rocket to Delta IV launches. Listeners asked about Vasimr & our guest was asked to clarify for us the differences between nuclear electric propulsion & nuclear thermal propulsion & why the latter is preferable. Dr. Dewar sent in another note to talk about Y-12. Later, much was said about plutonium & its pending shortage. Make sure you hear what Dr. Howe had to say about this looming shortage. Near the end, Dr. Howe mentioned his efforts with Hbar Technologies, LLC, suggesting that possibly using these nuclear advancements for medicine, specifically cancer, might be a driver for space applications. As we concluded, Dr. Howe told us about his books on Kindle & the consolidated all in one book, "Earth Rise." Here is the Amazon URL & remember, if you buy it using this URL, Amazon contributes to The Space Show: www.amazon.com/Earth-Rise-ebook/dp/B005LD3LYS/ref=onegialeafou-20. Post your comments/questions on the blog URL above.

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