Neclear Thermal Rocket Propulsion - Abstract
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Nuclear Thermal Rocket Propulsion

John D. Cinnamon
Department of Aerospace Engineering
University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Wallace T. Fowler, Ph.D.
Aerospace Engineering 396
Department of Aerospace Engineering
University of Texas at Austin

Spring 1992


In July of 1989, President George Bush announced the establishment of the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). This initiative challenged the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to begin constructing a national space strategy that would return the United States to leadership in the field of space exploration. As a defined goal, President Bush called for a manned mission to Mars early in the next century.

In May of 1991, The Synthesis Group (a panel convened by the White House to formulate a strategy to achieve these SEI goals) announced that the only prudent propulsion system for the Mars mission is Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP). (Herken 51) Indeed, a significant number of scientists tend to conclude the safest and most cost-effective propulsion system for interplanetary missions is NTP. (Walton 1)

Given that the goals of the SEI are worth achieving, NTP offers shorter transit times, reduced launch weight, greater flexibility, and greater safety (both in system performance and available abort modes) among other advantages discussed within this report.

This report will review the general Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) characteristics, discuss the history of the research and development efforts in this field, and present current design concepts.