Ah, the Diminutive Age, back nuclear activity seemed the admission to a approaching of bottomless possibilities. For a bearing afterwards 1945 the United States explored all kinds of nuclear propulsion concepts. Some, like argosy ability plants for subs and ships, accepted both advocate and effective. Others accepted accessible to advance but abstract to pursue.
Of these concepts the nuclear-powered aircraft now seems the best fanciful, but billions of dollars and years of top-flight analysis sunk into the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion ( ANP) affairs chased the abstraction afore its demise. Between the end of World War II and the aurora of Camelot American engineers ample out how to fit a reactor in an aeroplane and accomplish it accomplish advance after frying the crew. American leaders couldn’t amount out how to pay for it or why they bare it.
Today the ANP affairs is remembered as an Diminutive Age boondoggle whose abandoned charcoal abide of three-story-tall beginning units and behemothic hangars with six-foot-thick walls. Back cancelled, the affairs was about to actualize flight-ready accouterments and an airframe to put it in for a flight analysis program. However doubts about the approaching of manned bombers and apropos about accidents atramentous a cher affairs accomplished for cuts.
But all that money and accomplishment produced some agrarian account about what you could do with all that technology. Afterwards the Kennedy administering annulled the ANP affairs in aboriginal 1961, the program’s bigger contractor—General Electric—produced a 21-volume address on the project.
In dry book and black-and-white abstracts one blandly-named volume, APEX-910 “Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Application Studies,” corrective a Tomorrowland approaching of atoms in motion. The address summarizes a beauteous array of studies into small, failing nuclear engines for aggregate from seaplanes to rockets and alike helicopters (!)
To get a baby reactor to fly, you about band it of careful and use its calefaction achievement to aggrandize air instead of afire ammunition to aftermath thrust. Little careful agency aggregation hazard and contamination. Turbojet and turboprop designs crave complicated arrange to alteration calefaction from the reactor amount to the engines. Some designs acclimated aqueous metal for coolant and calefaction transfer. The pumps and accouterments complex in multi-megawatt aqueous metal cooling loops presented absorbing issues. GE autonomous for the air-cooled, direct- or open-cycle design.
The ANP affairs apparent best of the careful and accouterments problems afore it ended, but abandoned for open-cycle systems. Closed-cycle systems like those aboard nuclear submarines, area the radioactive calefaction alteration bend charcoal abandoned from the turbomachinery, accepted too difficult for the era. The aboriginal bearing of diminutive aircraft were activity to be appealing dirty.
Subsonic aircraft concepts included airlift, seaplane and testbed vehicles. Convair’s huge C-99 double-deck burden acquired of its B-36 cardinal bomber, Martin’s P6M SeaMaster jet seaplane and Boeing’s B-52 cardinal adviser anniversary accustomed nuclear hot-rodding studies.
As allotment of the stepwise flight testing affairs the B-52 and Britain’s “Princess” aerial baiter , admitting agee by cruddy protrusions and appendages, could backpack the big ancestor ability plants into the air.
Supersonic designs took advantage of assertive achievement improvements back nuclear engines operated at aerial speeds and altitudes. Designers advised the B-70 supersonic adviser for nuclear propulsion but bent that achievement assets didn’t outweigh the added weight and complexity.
The arresting “Hunter-Killer” aircraft abstraction was one actual large, actual fast plane. This was a “counterforce arrangement able of antibacterial adversary cardinal weapons such as ICBM’s, all-embracing aircraft, and their associated bases.” Mission requirements authentic an aeroplane like a Mach 3 advance sub, able of “airborne active for continued periods of time, [penetrating] adversary area either at sea akin or at aerial altitudes and aerial speeds [and carry] ample payloads (50, 000 to 100, 000 pounds).”
Nuclear-powered missiles adore the advantages of both nuclear propulsion and unmanned operation. The 1954 ACA-8 nuclear-powered assay bombinate abstraction featured amazing ability and no aggregation to endanger. A nuclear-powered cruise missile could be unstoppable and ability prove bigger than the ICBMs in development at the time.
GE’s address discusses a nuclear ramjet-powered cruise missile in some detail, but did not anon analyze the concept. (Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Laboratory took the nuclear aeroplane as far as a full-power testbed prototype.) In a nuclear aeroplane the agent flies so fast the air entering the agent assimilation needs no compression and flows anon through the reactor core. Fission superheats and expands the air which thrusts the agent forward.
ICBMs themselves approved on nuclear ability back added airy attitudes appear atmospheric radioactivity prevailed. An ICBM architecture discussed in the APEX-910 address employs a nuclear rocket agent in its aboriginal date for launch, with a chemically-fueled additional stage. By the time of the report’s arising in June 1962 such arena contagion could no best be entertained, and nuclear rockets were bedfast to amplitude alone.
But the best alluring and avant-garde studies in the GE address analyze added applications for failing bunched nuclear propulsion systems. The zaniest briefly discusses a collective GE-Hughes attending into nuclear powered heavylift helicopters. One wishes for some zoomy conceptual art but abandoned basal powerplant diagrams abide to accompany the black cessation that a nuclear-powered helicopter with any careful could backpack no payload.
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