TED Conversations

Kevin Jacobson

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Fission Powered Propulsion System Revised

My first conversation was about a fission rocket idea I had. But after realizing my original ideas flaws, partly due to a few specific TED members I have improved on my idea quite a bit from both from these peoples insight and my own studying. So, my idea works like this: Imagine a tank filled with pellets the size of grains of sand of Uranium 235 or Plutonium 239. A coil tube would spin rapidly inside the tank to retrieve individual servings of the fissile pellets. This is so that when the chain reactions take place, the reactions don't chase into the tank and detonate the spacecraft. As the separate amounts of Plutonium are thrown into the rocket chamber, they are bombarded by neutrons from a neutron gun. A neutron gun works like this: You have a lead tube with an alpha ray source at the end (in this case, Radium 226) and a sheet of Beryllium at the other end. The alpha rays react with the atoms of Beryllium in such a way that a neutrons are released in a beam on the other side of the sheet towards what ever you want. The advantage of using neutron guns instead of a nuclear reactor is that a neutron guns last for however long the half life on the alpha ray source is and in this case, since Radium 226 has a half life of 1601 yr's, the neutron guns would run on full power for 1601 yr's as appose to a nuclear reactor which lasts for four yr's. Neutrons from an array of neutron guns inside the chamber bombard the Plutonium atoms and cause them to fission, thus creating a plasma. This plasma would then be accelerated by the means of electromagnets. Once the Plutonium plasma reached a certain are in the chamber, Deuterium would be injected to the chamber to create even more plasma. This plasma would then be accelerated out the back to provide powerful thrust. I came up with this idea because the world is going Thorium and we will have a lot of fissile material left, so why not take advantage of it? If I didn't explain something well ask me about it via email or comment.

Topics: Space travel
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    Aug 17 2012: More detail. Evidence of research. Write a thesis on the subject.
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      Aug 17 2012: Do you want a citation from a website?