Rumors circulated last week, but now it's official: NASA won't be sending manned missions back to the moon any time soon. But in what may seem like a gutting of NASA moon- and Mars-based ambitions there is a silver lining: a $6 billion investment in helping private industry bring their space launch vehicles up to human-rated capacity and a smattering of modest robotic precursor missions to the moon, Mars, Martian moons or the Lagrange points that should set the stage for later manned missions far beyond low-earth orbit.
However, the Constellation program – and the $9 billion already spent developing its Orion crew vehicle and Ares rockets – is decidedly dead.
In a press conference Sunday, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag told reporters the White House is recommending Constellation be scrapped, turning the run-of-the-mill duties of shuttling astronauts into low-earth orbit over to private companies and shifting NASA's focus to ""advance robotics and other steps that will help to inspire Americans and not just return a man or a woman to the Moon but undertake the longer range research that could succeed in human spaceflight to Mars."
In a teleconference today, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden outlined the budget's goals, emphasizing that while Constellation is getting the axe, NASA's deep space exploration ambitions have not been curtailed, nor are they being fiscally undercut. Rather, NASA is reprioritizing, seeking more or less a five-year period of intense study on possible means toward future manned missions to deep space before embarking on a mission to the moon or beyond. Between now and fiscal 2015, the agency plans to fully utilize the R&D capabilities of the ISS, demonstrate better deep space flight technologies and fly some unmanned missions around the near solar system to scout out the most scientifically interesting targets for future manned exploration.
Those precursory missions to the moon, Mars and nearby asteroids might entail more tele-operated robots like the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars, as well as a robotic lunar lander or asteroid mission that demonstrates an ability to utilize resources from remote outposts in space. These will be substantially cheaper than manned missions, generally less than $800 million each. But the thrilling prospect of a manned mission back to the lunar surface within the decade as envisioned in Constellation is more or less out of the question.
Highlights from the proposed NASA budget:
- $6 billion over five years to catalyze development of American commercial human spaceflight vehicles.
- $7.8 billion over five years for technology demonstration programs for future exploration activities. These might include technologies aimed at rendezvous and docking in orbit, refueling vessels in space, advanced life support systems for astronauts and other developments that will facilitate future missions beyond low-earth orbit.
- $3.1 billion over five years for aggressive research into heavy-lift rocket engines (but not the Ares-V), new propellants, and innovative ways of reaching deep space.
- $4.9 billion over five years for investment in early-stage and game-changing technologies incubating in the private sector. These could include innovations in sensor tech, robotics, launch vehicles, communications, etc., and will likely be funded through X-Prize-like performance-based grants that reward private sector space companies that can hit certain benchmarks quickly.
- $3 billion over five years to fund a string of cost-effective exploratory unmanned missions to the moon, near-earth asteroids and even Mars, scouting future manned exploratory targets.
If, and I can not stress that word enough, NASA can be left to pursue a course without constant revision and change with every passing administration, I think this is the better route myself.
$4.9 won't go very far...
ding-dong the witch is dead.
Well NASA does various other things other then space flight, so it's not going anywhere. However, it's definately not going to be their glory days these next few years.
And since this money is technically to fund the private space industry, you'll see more innovations for profit rather then for pure science.
Profit > Pure Science in the short & mid-term IMHO. Human expansion could never be fueled solely by any government or probably even a cosortium of governments. It will take financial gain to drive expansion.
The Pure Science can wait just a little longer.
I'm not sure how to react at this point, but from my understanding (sort of in response to Meshca) the private industry will handle cargo in the immediate future and attempt to human rate a few of their vehicles as well.
On the topic of human rating, according to astronaut Megan McArthur, a couple of the commercial companies (SpaceX and Orbital were the topic) are building their cargo rockets with human rating them in mind, so it would only be the process of passing the tests that would get them into taking passengers, they wouldn't have to develop a whole new system.
While the commercial industry takes LEO 'stuff,' NASA will be working on innovating the science side to set a new baseline for space exploration. Right now we are using the same tech and theories as we did in the 60s, so I think it's about time to rewrite those databases.
It'll be interesting to see how NASA itself reacts to this and if people are too much in a tizzy to move on or if they take it in stride and start producing immediately. All I know is, now I don't know what company I should attempt to work for when I graduate in a year!
@ThatsNotRight: You are right. Lost a "billion" in the writing/editing process, amended the copy to read "$4.9 billion" rather than just "$4.9" at the offending place, thanks for keeping us honest.
I think this is the moment our future generations will look back at and praise for our courage to change for the better.
The future of space flight IS the private sector. Do we all fly on government run airlines? No, thankfully. How amazing to have someone in the position to make these decisions who recognizes the power of the people. We've been to the moon, we know what's there, we know we can use it in the future as a stepping stone. That's great!
What the human species needs RIGHT NOW is a lot more scientific research, innovation, and development in the wide range of fields needed to make space flight for grandma possible in the future. Spreading this money out to perfect many areas of space travel is an absolute necessity if we want to travel safely and sooner rather than later.
In the 60's our goal was the moon, and that's where all the money went. Well we accomplished that mission and we're in 2010 now. Our NEW goal is to have a space bearing civilization be it on the Moon, on Mars, in space or other. We can't possibly spend all our money on just one aspect of that realization. We need to develop all the fields together. Thank you Mr. President for realizing we need more than just NASA to make our dreams come true!
@battleshield. I do agree, but short/mid term pure science is much more different then long term science. Of-coarse there are a lot of factors to consider so that's just my opinion as well.
@Coolhand. At first, I didn't see it, but I think you're right. Even though NASA's funds are greatly diminished, the current administration basically scraped a useless money waster and are encouraging NASA to step it up a level rather than use outdated(IMO)technology. I guess it's like what highbob said "change for the better," I hope. Though, is space ready to be commercialized? and are we ready? Even though I'm still young, and not nostalgic about NASA as many older people are, it's hard to let go haha.
I don't know, this could go many ways. Change like this is not always bad, but it's also not always good. I guess it just looks depressing in the short-term.
And as far as hating Obama(which I do), heh I think he truly knows what he's doing, and he probably knows that if you want to bring change sometimes you have to be the asshole.
i say leave LEO to the private industry and try for mars and other new targets not something we already done
The most redeeming quality about the constellation program was that it was an actual fully laid out plan for what NASA should be doing. It insured that NASA would keep on pushing the boundaries of exploration. That being said it was not necessarily the best plan. Going forward NASA should encourage commercial space flight and put forth a newer long term vision for space that along the lines of what I will lay out
Concerning Constellation while its goals where noteworthy, it was a fundamentally flawed plan in terms of how much money it would cost and the direction it would take development. The Ares I rocket had two main design goals. Be safer than the shuttle and be a lot cheaper than the shuttle. While I do not doubt NASA could reach the safety goals of the program it was looking like it would still fail miserably in terms of being economical. The shuttle started to cost close to 1.5 billion per launch but the Augustine commission estimated that an Ares 1 launch would still cost close to 1 billion dollars per launch. Better than the shuttle but still terrible.
While I disagreed with the constellation programs execution and approach I overwhelmingly agree with its objectives of expanding humanity's reach into space: namely returning to the moon, traveling to mars and giving us the capability to launch substantially more powerful space telescopes in order to advance the cosmological and astro-physical sciences to help propel the technological revolutions of the future.
Some things about the Obama announcement actually signal the right direction to go to. The purpose of government is to achieve what none of us individually would be able to reach. In the context of government agencies such as NASA that means pushing the scientific envelope beyond what private citizens or corporations would be able to or have the incentive to do. In terms of developing rocket technology NASA has already fulfilled this role. Their role now should be as a benefactor and mentor for private corporations in fulfilling launch duties as private companies have the capability to achieve vastly superior economically efficiency than NASA could . This would allow NASA to be spend substantially less money on its launch needs than it would spend otherwise and free up personal, money, and other valuable resources for doing what NASA actually does best, science.
As evidence for the efficiency that private enterprise can provide I present the example of SpaceX. Their newest rocket, the falcon 9 cost only 78 million dollars per launch in the triple booster heavy configuration which is capable of 29,000 kg to orbit, which is several thousand more kg than the close to 1 billion dollar per launch for NASA's Ares 1. That's less than 1/10 the cost and their costs are expected to eventually more than half over the next several years as their scale increases. The rockets and their accompanying dragon capsule spacecraft ( analogous to Russian suyoz/progresso spacecraft) have been designed with manned flight in mind in from day one and it will probably take only six years to get to them to man rated qualifications with some NASA stewardship. Hands down, that takes NASA to the cleaners which is why NASA awarded them a contract to resupply the International Space Station for at least the next 5 years.
As to testifying to NASA’s efficiency at many scientific missions look at the recent Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The program cossted only 820 million dollars and has vastly exceeded expectations. Another example is the mission to Pluto that launched last year. The entire life time cost of the mission is only 650 million dollars and its going all the way to the far edge of the solar system to a place that has never been visited before.
Another advantage of private enterprise for launch systems is that it gives you alternatives when your main system is grounded. The US couldn't send anyone into space for years following Challenger and Colombia and will not be able to after this year’s shuttle retirement. If it wasn't for the Russians right now the space station would be in huge trouble and our entire astronaut corps would be grounded. Private enterprise could make this a problem of the past and overall helps everyone to do what their most efficient at, therefore allowing NASA and everyone to get more done that we would otherwise.
As for what NASA's new plan and direction should be I would suggest two plans. The first one is areas of development they should pursue and the second is of specific missions they should try for. Together they form a super plan duo.
1) Accelerate and support private enterprise launch capabilities like Obama said. Specifically, SpaceX is way closer to meeting NASA’s needs for both crew and cargo so focus on them. Even more specifically have them upgrade the falcon 9 boosters merlin 1c engines to something about 15 percent more powerful and commission them to create a 9 booster super heavy lift configuration of the system. Multi booster rocket like this are how the Russians have always done it and they have always been way cheaper than us and more recently have gotten a lot fewer people killed. Such a rocket would have about half the lifting capacity the Ares V but would literally be about 1/20 the cost per launch and thats not even including the huge development costs Ares V would have. The halved lifting capacity of about 90,000 kg to leo vs Ares V 188,000 kg to leo won’t matter so much due to my next point.
2) Going beyond rockets. When it comes right down to it they’re pretty shitty. There the confounding oxymoron of being both rather primitive yet extremely complicated. Plasma ion thrusters and related technology are where almost anyone would agree space propulsions going to be. So why waste resources on the status quo when you can instead start making the future a hell of a lot closer to right now. It’s vaguely similar to a 70's era computer company investing in vacuum tubes when transistors could offer exponentially better performance going forward. That being said rockets are still needed for launching purposes however.
Ad Astra's vasimir plasma ion engines are the farthest along and they’re geared up to start performing missions to the moon later this decade. I would advice focusing efforts on this company while still pursuing alternatives to a lesser degree. Due to the tremendous performance advantage these rockets can have, like a 39 day trip to mars kind of advantage, they easily warrant a multi-billion dollar investment.
They also could reduce the need for super heavy boosters. The Ares V would push 71,000 kg to the moon or to the L1 point, approximately. Because plasma ion engines are more fuel efficient, craft can weigh substantially less. If you could boost only 90,000 kg to leo as opposed 188,000 for Ares V you could make up the difference for lunar missions by having a vasimir third stage that would be able to make up for less rocket thrust and still get the same amount of payload to the moon or L1 as if you had a rocket booster twice as large. Additionally Vasmir tugs could stay in space and be reused indefinitely with periodic propellant restocking.
Furthermore such developments could help along inertial confinement fusion research for energy production and vice versa. When ICF technology is eventually developed having already developed plasma ion thruster would vary greatly ease the creation of fusion thrusters. One that happens we can all say hello to vacations on the moon and bye bye to chemical rockets.
3) Develop nuclear reactors modified for space as these would be required by plasma ion thruster and other application.( Solar arrays are limited to the inner solar system and would be to big and fragile for ship.) They would also be able power radiation shielding required for manned flights beyond earth orbit. This is not that big of a deal though because lots of companies are coming up with very light small reactors such as Hyperion and Toshiba’s 4S.
4) Accelerate the development of lighter, stronger and other high performance materials. Particularly carbon nanotubes as they are way stronger and lighter than any metal or even carbon fiber. You could have way lighter, stronger and more durable spacecraft and things like an ultra hypersonic (mach 5-12) parachute for mars landings.
5) Develop and launch a series of very large and advanced space telescopes to replace Hubble and the like. New technology's could enable them to be over a hundred times more powerful and if you’re gonna go through the effort to design one then you might as well get your design dollars money's worth and build more than one, especially if launch costs in the future will be cheaper. Also give them repair bots and extra space parts so we don't have to launch a bunch of repair missions which leads into 6.
6) Develop construction robots that can operate in orbit in order to put together things like larger plasma ion based ships form smaller components sent over various launches. If robots do it all it would be way cheaper than if people in space suits did it. Also have repair bots that can repair those ships if they become damaged during a mission.
Having laid out a plan for areas of development here is the plan for proposed missions and a possible schedule for them.
Mission Plan (note, just has most notable milestones, not necessarily entirely comprehensive)
2011- First SpaceX ISS resupply mission
2016- First manned Spacex dragon capsule mission to ISS
2016- First Vasmir tug to moon sending a robotic rover.
2019- Manned mission by companies and craft other than SpaceX and their dragon begin.
2019- Very large probe to mars surface via a vasimir space tug
2020- Manned mission to moon using a plasma ion propulsion to get from LEO to the moon
2021-More manned missions to the moon and probes to mars with the same payloads as a manned mission would have.
2022- First in series of new, post Hubble super space telescopes launched.
2023- Full plasma ion propelled mars practice mission with a payload landing on mars and then actually returning to earth.
2025- Manned mars mission. Approximate round trip time 120 days. 45 to mars, 30 on the surface, 45 back. (because you travel so fast you can do the entire mission in one orbital cycle instead of waiting 1.5 yrs for the next alignment).
2025 and on- More manned Mars missions and lunar missions
2025 and on- More space telescopes launched
2027- Manned mission to near earth asteroid
2029-Either a manned or robotic mission to the Saturn moon of Titan to drill through its ice sheets and explore its under ice oceans for life, along with searching and exploring the rest of the moon.
2031 and on- More missions, manned and robotic, to distant moons and planets.
2036- Robotic mission to Alpha Centauri. Yes you read that right. A highly developed plasma ion engine should be able to eventually accelerate to between 10 and 20 percent light speed after a year or so. Propellant would normally be a problem but at that speed a magnetic scoop should be able to collect stray hydrogen atoms in space at a rate fast enough to keep the engines supplied.
2038 and beyond – Robotic missions to the other nearby solar systems.
Overall I believe these two plans would be both extremely respectable, ambitious and definitely doable both technically and financially. Many of us mourn the loss of Constellation but if that program were to be replaced by one that could send us to Mars, Titan, and other solar systems I think we would all agree that the space agency and humanity would be better for it.
God willing Obama , NASA, and whoever comes after them will see the light and have the conviction, fortitude and foresight to come up with a ten , twenty and thirty year vision similar to the one I have laid out as an example. In summary develop private launch abilities, develop plasma ion thrusters, new space telescopes, new materials, space nuclear power, back to the moon by 2020, mars in 2025, Titan in 2029 and Alpha Centauri in 2036. In terms of budget .005 percent of the federal budget is not asking much. What does it say about us as a society if we spend 35 times more on defense than we do on exploring the enormity of creation.
Exhausted after leaving possibly the longest comment ever and hoping somebody up top actually cares.
I'm not sure I would have axed the Orion but I certainly agree Ares had to go.
The 1.5 launch architecture was fundamentally flawed and Ares I should have been dropped back in 2005 when the air started SSME fell through.
The vehicle simply was unworkable with a J2 upper stage as the J2X has about 100,000lbs less thrust then the SSME and a lower ISP.
The good news he set aside funding for a more directly derived SDLV and more funding for private orbital vehicles as well as R&D for advanced propulsion.
Medium lift launch vehicles can be bought now in the Atlas V and Delta IV.
No EELV has exploded or failed in a manner that would have been an LOC event.
But there are no commercial HLVs yet which is what NASA should have been working on since 2003.
The irony is the moon may have been deferred a little but we will probably get to Mars a lot sooner.
Under Constellation the HLV would not have gotten funded until 2016 and propulsion for mars not until well after 2020.
@urukon Wow, I didn't know they let people post that much! I read it all and it was very interesting. A bit optimistic in your dates, but still intriguing. I hope NASA looks at other technologies for space propulsion. I don't know enough about the topic to comment on any of that, but if what you say is even half true, sounds like they should be looking into it to me!
@Ruri the ssme has had problems from day one. It really needed to be redesigned with modern bearings and run at a lower pressure. Doing this work would have cost the same as developing the J2 engine.
@MerctheMad: I think that's the problem these days with anything the government does, whether it's space exploration, or health care, or defense appropriations, or whatever. The two political parties are so diametrically opposed that one party takes one course, then loses the election because the opposing party managed to make that course look bad, then once they get into office, they proceed to simultaneously undo the last administration's agenda and further their own pet policies. Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the roof of the WH, and what was one of the first things Reagan did when he got there? Take the solar panels down.
When I first found out about the cancellation of the Constellation program it felt like a huge step backwards. On claser inspection however, it becomes obvious that the Constellation program had several inherent flaws. I think that promoting private space flight is much better than dumping billions into a return to the moon. That being said, I think that NASA should begin developing a next generation human launch vehicle and a new heavy launch vehicle. The moon and mars should still be the eventual goal.
Yes, our space programs are becoming all too political - with the commensurate waste.
I think the budget (including NASA, DOD, new entitlements, etc.) should be a national referendum with voting based on taxes paid.
@urukon: A very thorough comment but with one error, Titan is a moon of Saturn with lakes of liquid natural gas. Europa is a moon of Jupiter. It's Europa that has the layer of ice that would be interesting to drill through.
I'm a bit of a statistics nut so her's some interesting figures. For your mission to alpha Centauri, after launch it would take at least 24 years to get any information back from the probe, that means (assuming a launch date of 2036) it would be 2060 before any information gets back. Also, using your proposed launch system it would cost the same to launch 1.8 million kg of cargo into LEO as it would to launch 180,000 kg of cargo using the Ares V. One more thing, your interstellar ion drive craft would be travelling a staggering 27,900 times faster than the space shuttle!
It sounds like some of you should work for Nasa! I don't know enough to tell you how to build the rockets but a thought I had is start launching from a real high mountain cutting the fuel down a lot? But we need to move away from rockets by building something like the planed elevator, or crazy inflatable lift there working on, once we can move thing up there for close to free I think we will be able to move forward with constant construction. also that whole slingshot around the moon thing that we use to speed up will help out a lot on the missions to deep space, so if you mix that with the new ideas for traveling faster we might live to see the results, I don't mind the moon lunch being canceled because are next trip there should be to start a permanent living place (best in one of the caves we discovered just by sealing the entrance or buinling a dome over it). Moving that money over to get the public up was a good move and will cause more people to take a interest and also the profit from the avg. joes trips up there will help fund many new companys to grow and start there own Nasa style labs and there new inventions, the competition of many different launch faculties sending there own ships will cause the space travel to advance a lot quicker.
Actually, it sounds like most people here don't have the foggiest idea what they are talking about. This budget kills manned space exploration, and turns NASA into just another jobs program.
@urukon is living in a sci-fi induced fantasy world. Unless we develop some engine based on breakthrough physics, we are going to be using rockets for thousands of years. Even a plasma engine is a rocket; it operates by expelling mass at velocity, just like every other rocket. See Newton for details.
The next best thing to chemical rockets for getting to LEO (or anywhere else Mars or closer) is going to be a nuclear thermal rocket. It would take decades and tens (hundreds?) of billions of dollars to build all the new nuclear plants just to produce the fuel that engineers would need in order to start testing designs for new engines, let alone even consider building and operating a practical nuclear thermal rocket.
When humans (Chinese, perhaps?) do finally establish a permanent base on the Moon and/or Mars, they will do it using chemical rockets, just like Constellation or Jupiter Direct (a better architecture, IMO).
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for researching NTR, but let's not just sit here for decade after decade after decade while we figure it out.
We once again have a NASA without concrete goals. It is a shame really, because there is nothing there to inspire people to become astronautical engineers, and without those engineers, we aren't going anywhere.
Personally, I started my studies as a astronautical engineer because I wanted to help humanity get off this rock. Now that I know that won't happen in my lifetime, I have to consider doing something else with my life. Luckily, it isn't too late to do something else, perhaps civil or marine engineering.
I wonder how many other astronautics students are also considering changing fields now?
finally, somebody said it! I was reading this tread, and quite frankly, I found it depressing.
I completely agree, we no longer have a positive direction for our space program. Obama basically put the entire agency (and the thousands of jobs associated with american manned spaceflight) in limbo, with no definite goals, just a notion that, in the words of deputy administrator Lori Garver, "maybe in a few decades", which, for all of you who aren't sure, is never in Washington talk. Obama has made it clear that space exploration and maintaining American leadership in space is priority zero.
Your plan is ambitious, and could actually lead to some noteworthy accomplishments (I especially liked the bit about the VASMIR engines and the fusion drives, though I think 2030 might be too optimistic). My question is Where does NASA fit in all of this? Will the astronauts be wearing American flags or corporate logos?
@all of you who have read this thread and are unsure about NASA's direction, allow me to convince you:
we've been mired in LEO for the better part of fifty years; it's time to move on. The moon is only three days away, there's plenty of water buried just below the surface which can be used for drinking or rocket fuel, a plentiful energy supply (unobstructed sunlight, or He3, take your pick), and gravity that's strong enough to keep people and plants reasonably healthy yet weak enough to allow for easy access to orbit. It seems to me that the logical path is the moon, then LEO, an NEO, then Mars and beyond. Unless that’s not where we want to go, in which case, where do we go?
While the constellation program may have been flawed, that prompts a redesign, not cancellation. There are plenty of other design architectures that could do the job better, cheaper, and sooner. There has been some talk of building an SDLV similar to the DIRECT design. What needs to be done is to take the lessons learned from Apollo and Shuttle, the agency's 2 great success stories, and bring together the best of both worlds. Orion was a step in the right direction, though I would have preferred something more reusable. The Ares rockets need to be scrapped in favor of something closer to shuttle, again, DIRECT may have the right idea.
Either way, we need to get American boots back on the moon sometime in the next 9 years, or else forfeit our leadership in space. You can be sure that China and India have their sights set on high goals. We are at a critical turning point in the second space race. Which brings me back to my last question: where do we want to go? My vote's the moon. Anyone else?
Maybe I am just paranoid after the past few years, but whenever the government annouces a change like this, I immediately ask what is the real reason. It is never what they say in public. Bare in mind that the ISS is now available only at the largess of of Russia who has already announced a severe price increase to be shuttle up to the station. (No risk there) Many of the astronauts that approached the moon or landed on it, have reported seeing something going happening on the far side with a definte warning for us not to approach. (No risk there either) NASA represents a mere 5% of our current budget, depending what they finally decide to screw us with next. NASA is the only government project that has provided many longterm advances to the USA in science and technology that have provided real benefits in new products and industries. So what does the current administration hope to gain by blind siding the program? It has been announced that most of the new budget will be to advance reseach into global warming. (I know Al Gore will doubtless continue to make $millions off of this stupid idea) Maybe they will be able to create a new fantasy science to justify this waste of our money. It would be nice if the political hacks (including the current NASA administration crowd) would get their mouths out of this feeding trough and let some real science actually take place.
And with that money, we could have spent on humans NOT ALIENS!
Space exploration could be more intense with a budget of few millions instead of billions and trillions. I think human space flight to the Moon, Mars and nearby asteroids, can be more affordable if NASA invests more in aneutronic energy as a means of propulsion.
it would be a very bad idea to use a fusion drive to get to orbit, or anywhere near the Earth, for that matter. The plasma exhaust, with temperatures measured in millions of degrees instead of a chemical or plasma rocket's few (hundred?) thousand would be extremely dangerous, leaving whatever launch facilities the craft used a smoldering crater. In space, the plasma would tend to hold together and form a sort of comet's tail behind the spacecraft miles long, potentially damaging satellites and interfering with communications. Fusion drives are best suited for manned deep space missions, away from large populations. Since plasma rockets are cheaper, less dangerous to the environment, have similar performance specs, and are within the reach of current technology, my bet is that the first ships to Mars will have a plasma rocket on board.
However, plasma rockets simply aren't strong enough to get anything into orbit, so chemical rockets are here to stay. That's why we need the constellation program. If we want to get out there in our lifetimes, we need constellation ,or at least something with similar goals, though maybe better funded, and closer to the shuttle in it.
Earth's atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.038% carbon dioxide, 1% water vapor, and small amounts of other gases. Fusion products are generally helium-4 that I think will hardly react with the atmosphere producing neutrons. However, it will surely produce X-ray radiation that will decrease with square of distance 1/r². Thus, such radiation can be tolerable and manageable. Alternatively, aneutronic reactor can produce electricity that could power a plasma rocket such as MPD Thruster and VASIMR, reducing even more the environmental damage. About damage on satellites and communication interferences, in space there are protons with energies exceeding 50MeV and the energy from fusion products will not exceed 8.68MeV
I'm not so much concerned about the chemical reactions that He4 goes through when exposed with air as I am with the temperatures of the products when they exit the rocket. How hot does your reactor get and how much of that heat gets transferred to the exhaust?
Anyway, I think we got more than a little off topic
The energy of the products is about 8.68MeV that would be equivalent to 98.35 billion °C. However, heat (thermal energy) and temperature are not the same thing. The ultra-hot plasma, having a predefined charge/mass ratio, is confined by electric and magnetic fields preventing them from hitting on the chamber walls, and the chamber walls are coated with an alternate layer of tungsten and boron carbide (W/B4C) to act as X-ray mirror.
About the temperatures of the products when they exit the rocket, I believe the heat will be diluted into the atmosphere smoothing such temperatures, producing UV and X-ray radiation instead of gamma rays and neutrons.
That's all I wanted to know. Thanks for clarifiying. I'm still a litte skeptical, and obviously the device needs to be tested, but it seems like a good idea.
After an 860 billion dollar stimulus to nowhere and squandering around 8-10 billion dollars per month trying to fight illiterate tribes in Afghanistan, you would think we could find a few billion for space exploration and the future of humanity. As a species, we have flashes of brilliance crowded out by immense quantities of stupidity.