Welcome to Beyond NERVA, where we explore the history and future of nuclear power in space.
While not a well-known field, an incredible amount of research and experimentation has developed these systems inot a diverse range of incredible reactors and power supplies for propulsion, electricity, and heat. Many have flown, and many more were eady to fly – only to be cancelled as national priorities changed.
The goal of this website is to act as a repository for that knowledge, explore the often-overlooked past of this incredible field, and look toward the future, both in the near term as well as the incredible capabilites of exotic and advanced designs.
Despite the long history of astronuclear engineering, the combination of the secrecy involved in the initial development, political neglect for decades, and a general lack of publicity surrounding these systems has led to many designs being lost to time.
Despite their age, these forgotten reactors offer valuable lessons for current and future designs and are fascinating examples of engineering creativity in their own right, and offer glimpses into the possibilities available not only in astronuclear systems, but other areas of design, chemistry, and power generation.
The US, Russia, European Space Agency, and China are all actively developing the next generation of astronuclear systems.
Ranging from fission power supplies to nuclear thermal rockets to new radioisotope thermoelectric generators, these systems will power and propel humanity’s next steps in exploring – and expanding into – the Solar System.
While astronuclear engineering has usually focused on near-term achievable systems due to the combination of budget constraints, mission timelines, and the depressing frequency of program cancellations, this does not mean that incredibly capable, powerful, and almost-science-fiction designs have not been extensively researched and even tested!
We examine many of these concepts, their history, and even a little of the current capabilities as an ongoing part of Beyond NERVA’s work.
Designing and developing any new system is a long, complex process, but with the challenges astronuclear engineering designers face, the problem grows far larger. We explore the processes, facilities and difficulties designers face extensively as part of our ongoing efforts to encourage the development and deployment of these fascinating, mission-enabling technologies
Hello, and welcome to Beyond NERVA! Today, we’re continuing to look at the pebble bed nuclear thermal rocket (check out the most recent blog post