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Nuclear powered airliners



 
 
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  #1  
Old October 12th 05, 03:51 AM
Robert Lynn
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Default Nuclear powered airliners

If we are to believe the pundits we are in the last few decades of
relatively cheap liquid fossil fuels, we are also being berated
interminably by the message that we are significantly effecting climate
with CO2 releases (personally I'm not 100 percent convinced that it is
entirely anthropogenic yet). At the same time it is I think unlikely
that people will be willing to accept significant drops in standard of
living as a result of these problems - so we need to find solutions.

Hydrogen sucks as a fuel for aircraft due to low energy density, we
could manufacture hydrocarbon fuels from biomass or even atmospheric
CO2 given sufficient energy, but I would like to propose a potentially
more efficient solution: the widespread use of commercial nuclear
aircraft.

The problems associated with nuclear powered aircraft are primarily
down to safety, so to offer a pathway into the widespread adoption and
use of nuclear power for aircraft I propose the following:

Nuclear Tow Planes.

We build Nuclear powered tow planes that are unmanned and completely
autonomous. These tow planes are sufficiently powerful to tow large
commercial jets and have reactors that are capable of operation for
several years at a time continuously aloft on a reactor load of fuel
(readily achievable).

These planes would initially only operate beyond the 200 mile limits
over international waters, far away from land where they could not
cause damage if they crashed. The planes will operate at say
3000-15000m in an environment where they are never exposed to the
dangers of foreign object ingestion, magnetic or gas lubricated
bearings can be used in the turbomachinery with relatively low Turbine
temperatures (say less than 950 deg C) and largish blade clearances to
ensure extremely long reliable engine life).

These planes would never land at airports thus avoiding the risks of
landing and takeoff and ensuring that no one will ever be exposed to
radiation.

Towing on a long rope ensures that passengers would never be exposed to
reactor radiation, and the reactor shielding could be minimal.

All maintenance and support for a large fleet could be done at an
isolated island facility (eg bikini atoll or the like), a
cradle/catapult launch system and recovery via redundant ballistic
recovery parachutes, or water landings could eliminate landing gear.
High lift devices could be eliminated leaving a very simple aircraft
with minimal systems that can go wrong.

Planes being towed could be converted from tubofans to turboprops for
takeoff and landing and with enough fuel to get to safety if the tow
failed for some reason, in flight the turboprops could be feathered.

A further refinement - and perhaps a major selling point, is the
possibility of making supersonic tow planes - towing aircraft around
the world at mach 2-3, anywhere on the planet cheaply in a single
flight of under 10 hours - this could open up a lot of new markets.

The tow planes can drop off one plane and pick up another straight
away, increasing their utilisation so that there is probably only the
need for one tow plane for every two or three international passenger
planes.

This idea can be sold to the public as an environmental boon - could
reduce CO2 emissions greatly, and could prove very economically
attractive with massively increased cargo capacity on long flights and
greatly reduced fuel bills. It probably only makes sense on
international flights of longer than 1 hour, but it could also make
international air cargo a lot cheaper opening up still further market
possibilities.

Bringing it back to space.. nuclear tow planes, possibly supersonic,
could also have application to HTHL assisted SSTO ala KellySpace,
Pioneer et al, with an onboard power excess they could possibly be
tweaked to make LOX and even condense water for LH2 manufacture for mid
air refueling. They would also be excellent for ferrying space planes
closer to the equator for low inclination launches.

Thoughts and comments?

Ads
  #2  
Old October 12th 05, 04:13 AM
Pat Flannery
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Default



Robert Lynn wrote:


Nuclear Tow Planes.

We build Nuclear powered tow planes that are unmanned and completely
autonomous. These tow planes are sufficiently powerful to tow large
commercial jets and have reactors that are capable of operation for
several years at a time continuously aloft on a reactor load of fuel
(readily achievable).



Here, we see one under test:
http://media.popularmechanics.com/images/195704.jpg
Soon, the F7U Cutlass shall be replaced with the revolutionary new
Boeing 707, and American Atomic Airlines shall initiate nonstop service
from New York to Los Angles- via Europe, Asia, and Hawaii. :-)

Pat
  #3  
Old October 12th 05, 05:28 AM
zoltan
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Perhaps it would be better to make a large nuclear airplane carrier
that would swallow smaller airliners and carry them around the globe. I
envision a large lifting body perhaps triangular or disk shaped. The
passenger planes could land inside the carrier and the people would
have a lot of room with recreational facilities, space to strech,
bigger bathrooms etc. Project Pluto developed the nuclear ramjet engine
that makes this possible.

  #4  
Old October 12th 05, 05:44 AM
Derek Lyons
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"Robert Lynn" wrote:

Thoughts and comments?


Whatever you are smoking - it's probably illegal.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
  #5  
Old October 12th 05, 07:38 AM
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Default

On 11 Oct 2005 19:51:19 -0700, "Robert Lynn"
wrote:

If we are to believe the pundits we are in the last few decades of
relatively cheap liquid fossil fuels, we are also being berated
interminably by the message that we are significantly effecting climate
with CO2 releases (personally I'm not 100 percent convinced that it is
entirely anthropogenic yet).


What is always elided is the fact that even if global warming is
occurring, and even if it is anthropogenic, it is a big leap from that
to proving that fossil fuel combustion is the mechanism. IMO
deforestation and other practices that alter the hydrological cycle
may well be more important.

-- Roy L
  #6  
Old October 12th 05, 08:27 AM
Alex Terrell
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I'm not so sure hydrogen is a bad fuel for airliners. They can be
constructed to have large volume - weight is the constraint.

Also, a lot of energy is consumed at take-off, and I suspect most
flying is done over land.

Perhaps airports should be equipped with electromagnetic launchers,
that could launch a hydrogen powered aircraft.

High altitude airports could launch craft at supersonic speed - this
too might have an application for space launch.

  #7  
Old October 12th 05, 03:54 PM
Henry Spencer
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Default

In article .com,
Robert Lynn wrote:
...The planes will operate at say
3000-15000m in an environment where they are never exposed to the
dangers of foreign object ingestion...


Unfortunately, birdstrikes -- by serious birds, like Canada geese -- are
not unknown even at jetliner cruising altitudes.
--
spsystems.net is temporarily off the air; | Henry Spencer
mail to henry at zoo.utoronto.ca instead. |
  #8  
Old October 12th 05, 04:39 PM
Pat Flannery
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Default



Alex Terrell wrote:


Perhaps airports should be equipped with electromagnetic launchers,
that could launch a hydrogen powered aircraft.


Here we see the hydrogen-fueled airliner lifting off from its launcher:
http://davidszondy.com/future/Flight/bulletplane.jpg

High altitude airports could launch craft at supersonic speed - this
too might have an application for space launch.


Better yet, high-velocity rotary wing launcher!:
http://media.popularmechanics.com/images/194107.jpg
The passengers will love being stuck to the starboard cabin wall as the
rotor comes up to speed.
For real fun, figure out what happens if the tow line doesn't detach on
this scheme:
http://davidszondy.com/future/Flight/jet_catapult.jpg
.....the catapult vehicle stops...and the tow line draws taut...and
then.... :-D

Pat
  #9  
Old October 12th 05, 06:10 PM
Rüdiger Klaehn
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I think even when an economic non-fossile energy source like nuclear
fusion or solar power sats becomes available, it will be much more
convenient to store this energy in the form of hydrocarbons for the use
in small vehicles.

Methane for example is much easier to store and more dense than
hydrogen, yet very easy to create from air given a sufficiently cheap
energy source.

So when nuclear fusion becomes available, people will just build huge
fusion plants that convert water and atmospheric CO2 to methane or
methanol. Cars using methane or methanol are available today, and there
is even some research in direct methanol fuel cells. And it should be
relatively easy to convert jet engines to methane. The storage in an
airplane might be a problem, but not nearly as big a problem as with
hydrogen.

So there simply is no need for nuclear powered airplanes, even though
the idea is neat.

  #10  
Old October 12th 05, 06:40 PM
Pat Flannery
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Default



Henry Spencer wrote:


Unfortunately, birdstrikes -- by serious birds, like Canada geese -- are
not unknown even at jetliner cruising altitudes.



I've seen what a Canada goose can do hitting a aircraft at 200 mph; it
went through the copilot's windshield, and ended up back by the tailcone.
You hit one at 600 mph, it's going to be major-league bad.
On a lark (bad pun) I looked up what the bird altitude record was. A
Ruppell's Griffin (a type of African vulture) was struck by an aircraft
at 37,000 feet.

Pat
 




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