Steady Nuclear Combustion in Rockets

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The astrophysical theory of stationary nuclear reactions in stars is applied to the conditions that would be met in the practical engineering cases that would differ from the former, particularly with respect to the much lower combustion pressures, dimensions of the reacting volume, and burnup times. This application yields maximum rates of hear production per unit volume of reacting gas occurring at about 10(exp 8) K in the cases of reactions between the hydrogen isotopes, but yields higher rates for heavier atoms. For the former, with chamber pressures of the order of 100 atmospheres, the energy production for nuclear combustion ... continued below

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Saenger, E. April 1, 1957.

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This report is part of the collection entitled: National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Collection and one other and was provided by UNT Libraries Government Documents Department to Digital Library, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. It has been viewed 37 times . More information about this report can be viewed below.

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The astrophysical theory of stationary nuclear reactions in stars is applied to the conditions that would be met in the practical engineering cases that would differ from the former, particularly with respect to the much lower combustion pressures, dimensions of the reacting volume, and burnup times. This application yields maximum rates of hear production per unit volume of reacting gas occurring at about 10(exp 8) K in the cases of reactions between the hydrogen isotopes, but yields higher rates for heavier atoms. For the former, with chamber pressures of the order of 100 atmospheres, the energy production for nuclear combustion reaches values of about 10(exp 4) kilocalories per cubic meter per second, which approaches the magnitude for the familiar chemical fuels. The values are substantially lower for heavier atoms, and increase with the square of the combustion pressure. The half-life of the burnup in the fastest reactions may drop to values as low as those for chemical fuels so that, despite the high temperature, the radiated energy can remain smaller than the energy produced, particularly if an inefficiently radiating (i.e., easily completely ionized reacting material like hydrogen), is used. On the other hand, the fraction of completely ionized particles in the gases undergoing nuclear combustion must not exceed a certain upper limit because the densities (approximately 10(exp -10) grams per cubic centimeter)) lie in the range of high vacua and only for the previously mentioned fraction of nonionized particles can mean free paths be retained small enough so that the chamber diameters of several dozen meters will suffice. Under these conditions it appears that continuously maintained stable nuclear reactions at practical pressures and dimensions are fundamentally possible and their application can be visualized as energy sources for power plants and propulsion units.

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  • Astronautica Acta I; Volume 2; 61-88

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  • URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2060/20050169477 External Link
  • Report No.: NACA-TM-1405
  • Center for AeroSpace Information Number: 20050169477
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc64929

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National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Collection

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was a U.S. federal agency founded on March 3, 1915 to undertake, promote, and institutionalize aeronautical research. On October 1, 1958 the agency was dissolved, and its assets and personnel transferred to the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Technical Report Archive and Image Library

This selection of materials from the Technical Report Archive and Image Library (TRAIL) includes hard-to-find reports published by various government agencies. The technical publications contain reports, images, and technical descriptions of research performed for U.S. government agencies. Topics range from mining, desalination, and radiation to broader physics, biology, and chemistry studies. Some reports include maps, foldouts, blueprints, and other oversize materials.

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Creation Date

  • April 1, 1957

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 17, 2011, 5:13 p.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Feb. 6, 2017, 4:21 p.m.

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Saenger, E. Steady Nuclear Combustion in Rockets, report, April 1, 1957; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc64929/: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.