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Figure 2.

Unmanned probe approaching Pluto. Probe is powered by thermionic radioisotope power generator. The laser beams for surface illumination, with optical sensors slaved to the beams. Other equipment comprises radiation counters as well as field, plasma and particle sensors.

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM

Figure 7.

Earth-moon based planetary space port in 1988. Spacecraft are nuclear propelled interplanetary vehicles, launched by solid propellant lift-off rockets side-mounted around center section which, like the cylinders at the spacecraft’s center section, contain nuclear pulse units. In background a large antenna, belonging to the lunar deep space network is visible.

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM

Solar Transportation

I find writing excruciating, which is why I usually let the Astronautix guy or Winchell Chung do the talking. Neither were available this morning, so context for the next couple of posts is by yours truly. Apologies in advance.

Solar Transportation was a presentation given by Krafft Ehrikke at the American Astronautical Society in 1966. In essence, the lecture describes how our solar system might be navigated in the year 2000. As reprinted in the book by Marsha Freeman, it’s a surprisingly enjoyable read.

The summary includes a wish list of propulsion systems to be developed.

Late 70s and most of the 80s

  • Solid core nuclear reactors, especially NERVA

Late 80s and 90s

  • Nuclear pulse (NP) (non-steady nuclear fission and fusion drive)
  • Controlled thermonuclear reactor (CTR) (steady nuclear fusion drive) or, if neither one of these developments is undertaken,
  • Nuclear-electrostatic drive.

Ehrikke then presents a timetable, representing a “sensible and likely” evolution of manned helionautical missions.

1970s

  • An orbital operations capability would be developed, facilitating cislunar and heliocentric excursion missions. 

1980s

  • In 1982, a 69 day Mars capture mission launches. The crew conducts intensive reconnaissance both from orbit, and using probes – including landers and returners – but no manned surface excursions are planned. A mission launched between 1984 is one-way, involving a 529 day stay on Mars. A follow-on mission in 1985 (via Venus) retrieves the crew.
  • By the end of the ’80s, a capability is established for a Venus landing. A solar physics laboratory is erected on Mercury. These missions are based on the NP and CTR drives.

I990s

  • Regular transfers begin between Earth and Mars.
  • Exploration of Jupiter and Saturn and their moons.
  • Manned missions to asteroids and comets.
  • Beginning of utilization of the raw material resources of asteroids and planets of the inner solar system.

Solar Transportation then goes back the future and the fall of the year 2000, looking back at the events that led to the interplanetary travel we enjoy at the dawn of the new millennium. The interplanetary corridorsĀ  between Mercury and Saturn are alive with manned vehicles. Unmanned probes have reached the Sun. Food is grown on Mars and it is expected that exports to Earth will begin within fifty years. An orbital supply and rescue station is established at Venus, acting as a helionautical coast guard station. But like I said already, go and read it yourself.

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM

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Fusion Designs at Atomic Rockets

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM

Explorer Party Lands on Jupiter VII

Fusion Designs at Atomic Rockets

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM

Over Midnight Point of Mercury

Fusion Designs at Atomic Rockets

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM

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Fusion Designs at Atomic Rockets

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM

Fusion Ship by John Sentovic

Fusion Designs at Atomic Rockets

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM

CTRV

Fusion Designs at Atomic Rockets

Image credit: Krafft Ehricke Papers

Image source: NASM