Plan for nuclear space ships.NASA NASA: see National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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Independent U.S. is spending pounds 4m on developing futuristic electric propulsion Electric propulsion is a form of spacecraft propulsion used in outer space. This type of rocket engines utilize electric energy to obtain thrust, unlike the "normal" rocket engines that use chemical energy. systems that may one day carry people to Mars.
The three-year programme, part of the American space agency's Prometheus project, will involve designing new kinds of nuclear power plant for spacecraft.
Last week, an agreement to support nuclear power in space was signed by Nasa and the joint civilian and military government organisation Naval Reactors.
The goal is to develop a high-power electric propulsion system that could significantly reduce the fuel payload needed for long-distance space travel, The Engineer magazine reported.
One idea is for a nuclear-powered engine that magnetically accelerates plasma-gas with molecules which are electrically charged.
The plasma would shoot out of the thruster to push the spacecraft forward.
``This could result in higher exhaust velocities than is possible from thrusters that rely on chemical reactions, '' said The Engineer.
The Pulsed Inductive Thruster Pulsed inductive thrusters (or PITs) are a form of ion thruster, used in spacecraft propulsion. A PIT uses perpendicular electric and magnetic fields to accelerate a propellant. (PIT) would operate at efficiencies of just above 70%. It would be far more efficient than the main engines of the space shuttle, for example.