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Old 08-18-2016, 11:19 PM #369
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Interesting, however, there are currently NO LFTR reactors running on the planet (there hasn't been since the 1960s) and we still have many issues to figure out with those. A different power source may be needed if you want to see it happen in your lifetime. Plus we still don't know if the EM drive actually works. We have a long way to go. Just trying to be realistic...

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We could probably send a small probe in less than half a century with mostly current technology though. I think there's a plan called Breakthrough Starshot that wants to use lasers and microprobes to make it in 20 years or something like that.

EM drives and fission reactors don't look all that useful for space travel at the moment.


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Old 08-18-2016, 11:27 PM #370
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Nope doesn't work, nothing to see here, NASA doesn't know how to test things.

Nothing to see here either, India is just processing Thorium into U-233 for fun, they dont have a heavy water Thorium reactor already built, and they have no plans for 3rd gen Thorium LFTR tech in the next 10 years...

All the tech is there, neither Thorium LFTRs nor EMDrive are theories any more. It is only a matter of going from small scale experiments in both fields to demonstration models to actual craft.

For scale space-x JUST tested the new engine 3x more power than Falcon 9. That is supposed to allow us to colonize Mars.

The EM drive still hasn't been tested outside of a lab, we still don't understand how it works - we haven't ruled out all sources of error in the experiments and we don't even know if it'll work in space. Once someone launches one into space and it works there, then I'll be able to get behind it completely. Don't get me wrong - I'm hopeful - but trying to be realistic.

I didn't say the Thorium cycle doesn't work - I said there are currently no LFTR reactors and that there are still lots of issues to work out with LFTR. Thorium does work - but there have been no LFTR reactors since the 60s and it'll be a while before there are any again.

I'm excited about Space X - especially their upcoming Falcon 9 re-launch and the Falcon Heavy - especially if they can land all three Falcon Heavy cores - that'll be fantastic to watch. As for their Raptor engine - from everything I've seen they've only just shipped it out to the test site for what I assume is only static testing, so we'll be waiting a while before we see any test results - still exciting though. I hope they can pull off their Mars mission, and for a fraction of the cost versus NASA. Time will tell - even if they are a little late! They are the kick in the ass space travel needs - although they aren't the only ones.

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We could probably send a small probe in less than half a century with mostly current technology though. I think there's a plan called Breakthrough Stars hot that want to use lasers and microprobes to make it in 20 years or something like that.

EM drives and fission reactors don't look all that useful for space travel at the moment.
Yes, maybe we can get it there, but good luck communicating with it or putting any useful instruments on it. You need a big transmitter and a big dish to have any chance of covering 4 light years of empty space. Not to mention instruments, control systems, power systems, heating etc.
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Old 08-18-2016, 11:44 PM #371
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Yes, maybe we can get it there, but good luck communicating with it or putting any useful instruments on it. You need a big transmitter and a big dish to have any chance of covering 4 light years of empty space. Not to mention instruments, control systems, power systems, heating etc.
Didn't say it was feasible at the moment, but it'd probably only take some extention of technology we already have developed vs completely new realms of technology. The Breakthrough Starshot idea of getting a probe down to a couple grams seems a hit much, but miniaturizing a one way laser communication system, camera, and radioisotope battery might not be too bad. I think Breakthrough Starshot has some big backers behind it now too, so there must be something to it.
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Old 08-18-2016, 11:59 PM #372
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Didn't say it was feasible at the moment, but it'd probably only take some extention of technology we already have developed vs completely new realms of technology. The Breakthrough Starshot idea of getting a probe down to a couple grams seems a hit much, but miniaturizing a one way laser communication system, camera, and radioisotope battery might not be too bad. I think Breakthrough Starshot has some big backers behind it now too, so there must be something to it.
Ehhh ... I mean in theory it could work, but the technology just isn't even close at the moment maybe in a good few decades, but it's not even remotely close just now. Not to mention the cost of building such a system. The EM drive would be more practical IMO - assuming it actually works in space the way we think it should.

The probe would need to survive about 10,000G of acceleration - at least going by the numbers I've read they're aiming for. 99,900ms^-2 acceleration - that's a lot - for some perspective - that's roughly 0-360,000km/h in one second. It'd also need to survive vacuum, radiation, extreme cold and collisions with space dust.
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Old 08-19-2016, 12:10 AM #373
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

I started taking an Astronomy class at my local college & am really loving it! So far we've talked about the speed of light, distances in space and today mostly about how big the universe really is! Are there multiple universes? Are universes like Darwinism where some survive and prosper whilst others die off?

There is also a cool video on YouTube from a guy I watch pretty often about the limits of humanity.


-Alex
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Old 08-19-2016, 01:45 AM #374
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Thorium does work - but there have been no LFTR reactors since the 60s and it'll be a while before there are any again.
That would depend on market conditions mostly. Currently exploring thorium reactors is not that attractive because fossil fuel prices are low. Also thorium reactors are only attractive to countries that seek only nuclear power but no (new) nuclear weapons.

I reckon that the technology will be developed in India since they already have nuclear weapons, a great need for energy, and vast thorium reserves. It's likely that they would run reactors on combined uranium and thorium fuel since they already have the former which can be used to breed fissile material from thorium.

It would be quite a feat if india manages to propel something far into space using this though, but not impossible since they already have a space program of sorts.
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Old 08-19-2016, 02:10 AM #375
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Ehhh ... I mean in theory it could work, but the technology just isn't even close at the moment maybe in a good few decades, but it's not even remotely close just now. Not to mention the cost of building such a system. The EM drive would be more practical IMO - assuming it actually works in space the way we think it should.

The probe would need to survive about 10,000G of acceleration - at least going by the numbers I've read they're aiming for. 99,900ms^-2 acceleration - that's a lot - for some perspective - that's roughly 0-360,000km/h in one second. It'd also need to survive vacuum, radiation, extreme cold and collisions with space dust.
I don't think vacuum, radiation or temperature are huge concerns if we're dealing with a very simple system on a chip. Dust would be an issue, but sending a swarm may mitigate the issue as long as there's a statistical threshold they can withstand. Acceleration is with a light sail though, so that's a huge issue, but I haven't seen much on actual goals in that area.

I just like the idea more since I can see we're already on the way to make it possible and have been for a while. Plus, I'm a fan of Hawking who supports the concept.

With warp tech and EM drives, the science just isn't there yet. With nuclear propulsion (pulse or fusion), the engineering has a long way to go. The concept for Starshot is a bit out there, but I feel something like it will likely have the best shot in the foreseeable future at least.

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I started taking an Astronomy class at my local college & am really loving it! So far we've talked about the speed of light, distances in space and today mostly about how big the universe really is! Are there multiple universes? Are universes like Darwinism where some survive and prosper whilst others die off?

There is also a cool video on YouTube from a guy I watch pretty often about the limits of humanity.


-Alex
Nice Hap! I can't wait to take my astronomy class. It'll probably be a lot more math and physics than what you're taking, but the concepts are the fun part.

Also. It's only been a week! Look at the last page. You even commented
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Old 08-19-2016, 02:21 AM #376
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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That would depend on market conditions mostly. Currently exploring thorium reactors is not that attractive because fossil fuel prices are low. Also thorium reactors are only attractive to countries that seek only nuclear power but no (new) nuclear weapons.

I reckon that the technology will be developed in India since they already have nuclear weapons, a great need for energy, and vast thorium reserves. It's likely that they would run reactors on combined uranium and thorium fuel since they already have the former which can be used to breed fissile material from thorium.

It would be quite a feat if india manages to propel something far into space using this though, but not impossible since they already have a space program of sorts.
India is literally doing all those things with Thorium as we speak. The processing center in Bombay converts Thorium to U-233

This year they started using that U-233 in existing Reactors.

A dedicated 300mw Reactor is in the final stages at BARC and should be online this year, it will run on U-233 AND use a Thorium blanket to convert Thorium to U-233.

The idea is that facility will produce enough material to fuel several more new U-233 reactors.

India also has a detailed nuclear power development plan including what they call 2nd and 3rd gen reactors, they aren't saying MSR but that is what is assumed by "3rd" gen.



China was supposed to be ahead of India on Thorium from what I gathered from articles older than 2014... After that all info about Chinas Thorium reactor went dark, they aren't saying anything, the media isn't saying anything, and scientists are not releasing any new data to the public.
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Old 08-19-2016, 02:28 AM #377
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

Along the EMDrive lines I'm watching this guy very closely. Building an testable EMDrive might be something many on this forum could be capable of.

Optical/Laser EMDrive


He is currently building a more "conventional" EMDrive using a magnetron.

QThruster

To date he is not sure which one will work better (theory indicates both should work). He is working to make his test stand more accurate/sensitive over the next few months due to a limited budget.

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Old 08-19-2016, 04:56 AM #378
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Originally Posted by Rivem View Post
I don't think vacuum, radiation or temperature are huge concerns if we're dealing with a very simple system on a chip. Dust would be an issue, but sending a swarm may mitigate the issue as long as there's a statistical threshold they can withstand. Acceleration is with a light sail though, so that's a huge issue, but I haven't seen much on actual goals in that area.
Doesn't radiation become more of an issue when you make circuits smaller? More chance of a bit flipping I thought? Maybe not all that critical with such a setup - but I can still see radiation being an issue. A large swarm and some radiation hardening would certainly help mitigate some issues.


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Along the EMDrive lines I'm watching this guy very closely. Building an testable EMDrive might be something many on this forum could be capable of.


To date he is not sure which one will work better (theory indicates both should work). He is working to make his test stand more accurate/sensitive over the next few months due to a limited budget.
]
Has he made any progress with the optical thruster? Last I checked he hadn't made an update on that for a good while. Interested to see how that turns out too.
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Old 08-19-2016, 05:37 AM #379
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Doesn't radiation become more of an issue when you make circuits smaller? More chance of a bit flipping I thought? Maybe not all that critical with such a setup - but I can still see radiation being an issue. A large swarm and some radiation hardening would certainly help mitigate some issues.




Has he made any progress with the optical thruster? Last I checked he hadn't made an update on that for a good while. Interested to see how that turns out too.
As I understand it, he completed the optical thruster but came up against the limits of his testing equipment.

I guess he figured that going back to the original design concept would be more likely to yield results he could detect.

I find it interesting that the thrusters are apparently not that expensive/difficult to build.

As much as some people say the EM Drive is untested, people are already experimenting with cavity design and RF sources based only on a few NASA, Chinese etc tests and computer simulations.

It's smart. The first people to patent the most optimum cavity/RF source combo will make lots of money.
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Old 08-19-2016, 08:07 AM #380
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Doesn't radiation become more of an issue when you make circuits smaller? More chance of a bit flipping I thought? Maybe not all that critical with such a setup - but I can still see radiation being an issue. A large swarm and some radiation hardening would certainly help mitigate some issues.
Radiaton does become more of an issue with component density but not necessarily size. Really though, designing a semiconductor system to be more nonvolatile is all it should take. Designing chips that can take interruption easily and non necessarily worrying about data is all it should take. We like to think of computers and microprocessors as completely reprogrammable, but that gives them a lot of weakness towards ionizing radiation. Hardwire your most critical "programs" and error checking, and the ssystem shouldn't be bothered much by radiation. The system might have to restart or get interrupted, but that should be it.

The biggest issues are when a programmable system gets part of the program broken or wiped, and then a reboot fails since the devict doesn't know what to do. There are also tasks that require memory that get interrupted like keeping track of time or measuring over a period of time. Clock resets have caused issues in CubeSats. Some sort of memory will definitely be necessary, so maybe the probe could detect radiation levels before it writes something, and the storage media could be non-rewritable. Thinner components and less shielding also tend to help radiation pass through without issue.

I think a meaningful camera and laser communications system in a tiny grams-scale package are by far the trickiest technological parts they want. I think the propulsion lasers might be best off in space as well. Maybe put them on the moon with a reactor. Just seems like the atmosphere isn't going to be great for shining gigawatt scale lasers throuh for a fine focal point at huge distances with maximal power.
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Old 08-19-2016, 08:48 AM #381
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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Radiaton does become more of an issue with component density but not necessarily size. Really though, designing a semiconductor system to be more nonvolatile is all it should take. Designing chips that can take interruption easily and non necessarily worrying about data is all it should take. We like to think of computers and microprocessors as completely reprogrammable, but that gives them a lot of weakness towards ionizing radiation. Hardwire your most critical "programs" and error checking, and the ssystem shouldn't be bothered much by radiation. The system might have to restart or get interrupted, but that should be it.

The biggest issues are when a programmable system gets part of the program broken or wiped, and then a reboot fails since the devict doesn't know what to do. There are also tasks that require memory that get interrupted like keeping track of time or measuring over a period of time. Clock resets have caused issues in CubeSats. Some sort of memory will definitely be necessary, so maybe the probe could detect radiation levels before it writes something, and the storage media could be non-rewritable. Thinner components and less shielding also tend to help radiation pass through without issue.

I think a meaningful camera and laser communications system in a tiny grams-scale package are by far the trickiest technological parts they want. I think the propulsion lasers might be best off in space as well. Maybe put them on the moon with a reactor. Just seems like the atmosphere isn't going to be great for shining gigawatt scale lasers throuh for a fine focal point at huge distances with maximal power.
The international community gets really nervous at the idea of putting high power lasers in space.

Currently too many other countries are sending/plan to send/have aspirations of sending things out past the moon, so even putting a laser on the darkside is seen as a threat.

It's too easy to weaponize.
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Old 08-20-2016, 01:02 AM #382
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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India is literally doing all those things with Thorium as we speak. The processing center in Bombay converts Thorium to U-233

This year they started using that U-233 in existing Reactors.

A dedicated 300mw Reactor is in the final stages at BARC and should be online this year, it will run on U-233 AND use a Thorium blanket to convert Thorium to U-233.

The idea is that facility will produce enough material to fuel several more new U-233 reactors.
I didn't know they were that far along already, i thought most of it was still in the experimental stages, but good on them!

Switching to a mostly thorium cycle would make sense for india since the ore is available domestically and nuclear infrastructure is already in place.

An interesting consequence might be that canada will go for thorium as well, since it also has domestic reserves, and designed the candu (heavy water moderated) reactor which is very suitable to run on U233 breeding more of it from thorium.
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Old 08-20-2016, 02:21 AM #383
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

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I didn't know they were that far along already, i thought most of it was still in the experimental stages, but good on them!

Switching to a mostly thorium cycle would make sense for india since the ore is available domestically and nuclear infrastructure is already in place.

An interesting consequence might be that canada will go for thorium as well, since it also has domestic reserves, and designed the candu (heavy water moderated) reactor which is very suitable to run on U233 breeding more of it from thorium.
A HUGE factor is how easy it is to process Thorium baring ore.

You can chemically separate it.

EXTRACTION AND REFININGtoc
Acidic and alkaline digestion
Although monazite is very stable chemically, it is susceptible to attack by both strong mineral acids (e.g., sulfuric acid, H2SO4) and alkalies (e.g., sodium hydroxide, NaOH). In the acid treatment, finely ground monazite sand is digested at 155 to 230 C (310 to 445 F) with highly concentrated (93 percent) H2SO4. This converts both the phosphate and the metal content of the monazite to water-soluble species. The resulting solution is contacted with aqueous ammonia, first precipitating hydrated thorium phosphate as a gelatinous mass and then metathesizing the thorium phosphate to thorium hydroxide. Finally, the crude thorium hydroxide is dissolved in nitric acid to produce a thorium nitrate-containing feed solution suitable for final purification by solvent extraction (see below).


In alkaline digestion, finely ground monazite sand is carefully treated with a concentrated NaOH solution at 138 C (280 F) to produce a solid hydroxide product. Any one of several mineral acids is then used to dissolve this solid residue. For example, treatment with hydrochloric acid yields a solution of thorium and rare earth chlorides. Conventionally, thorium is partially separated from the rare earths by addition of NaOH to the acidic chloride solution. The crude thorium hydroxide precipitate is then dissolved in nitric acid for final purification by solvent extraction.

Solvent extraction

For the purification of thorium from residual rare earths and other contaminants present in nitric acid feed solutions, the crude thorium nitrate concentrate is usually contacted with a solution of tributyl phosphate diluted by a suitable hydrocarbon. The resulting organic extract, containing the thorium (and any uranium that may be present), is then contacted countercurrently with a small volume of nitric acid solution in order to remove contaminating rare earths and other metallic impurities to acceptable levels. Finally, the scrubbed tributyl phosphate solution is contacted with a dilute nitric acid solution; this removes, or strips, thorium from the organic solvent into the aqueous solution while retaining uranium (if present) in the organic phase. Thermal concentration of the purified thorium nitrate solution yields a product suitable for the fabrication of gas mantles (see below Chemical compounds). The nitrate can also be calcined to ThO2, which is incorporated into ceramic fuel elements for nuclear reactors or is converted to thorium metal.

Reduction to the metal
Powdered ThO2 can be fluorinated with gaseous hydrogen fluoride (HF), yielding thorium tetrafluoride (ThF4). The metal is obtained by the Spedding process, in which powdered ThF4 is mixed with finely divided calcium (Ca) and a zinc halide (either zinc chloride or zinc fluoride) and placed in a sealed, refractory-lined “bomb.” Upon heating to approximately 650 C (1,200 F), an exothermic reaction ensues that reduces the thorium and zinc to metal and produces a slag of calcium chloride or calcium fluoride:



After solidification, the zinc-thorium alloy product is heated above the boiling point of zinc (907 C, or 1,665 F) but below the melting temperature of thorium. This evaporates the zinc and leaves a highly purified thorium sponge, which is melted and cast into ingots.



This makes Thorium much cheaper than Uranium/Plutonium that requires centrifugal separation.

Once Thorium is processed you just put it in a bundle and sink it in with the reactor core to transmutate it into U-233 with neutron radiation.
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Last edited by AaronT; 08-20-2016 at 02:23 AM.
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Old 08-20-2016, 02:29 AM #384
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Default Re: Space Discussion Thread

The Thorium fuel cycle also produces Pu-238 vital for medical uses as well as thermal piles used for space probes.

Pu-238 is in extremely short supply.

Pu-238 Supply
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