Fission source as "rocket"

In summary, the conversation discusses the potential use of a humble smoke detector as a "sail" in space due to the net force created by the absorption of alpha decay products into the metal plate. However, the force is estimated to be too small to be useful, with the example of the Deep Space 1 probe carrying 36kg of fuel for its ion thruster. The conversation also questions why alpha decay is being referred to as "fission."
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Looking at a humble smoke detector - a metal plate with some alpha source on one side. I guess the fission products / apha etc emitted in one direction are absorbed into the metal, and the opposite direction go into space. So there should be a minute net force ? Would that be useful as a "sail" in space ? It seems to me it would be simpler than a thermoelectric generator and ion engine (?)
 
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synch said:
Looking at a humble smoke detector - a metal plate with some alpha source on one side. I guess the fission products / apha etc emitted in one direction are absorbed into the metal, and the opposite direction go into space. So there should be a minute net force ? Would that be useful as a "sail" in space ? It seems to me it would be simpler than a thermoelectric generator and ion engine (?)
Why are you calling alpha decay "fission"?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fission

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_decay
 
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  • #3
synch said:
Looking at a humble smoke detector - a metal plate with some alpha source on one side. I guess the fission products / apha etc emitted in one direction are absorbed into the metal, and the opposite direction go into space. So there should be a minute net force ? Would that be useful as a "sail" in space ? It seems to me it would be simpler than a thermoelectric generator and ion engine (?)

Yeah a minute force would be expected, but far too small to be useful. To estimate how small it is, figure out how much mass loss the smoke detector experiences in a year, and then use ##E=mc^2## My guess is that after 100 years, the mass loss would still be far too small to measure by ordinary means.

By contrast, the Deep Space 1 probe carries 36kg of fuel for the ion thruster.
 
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1. What is a fission source used for in rocket propulsion?

A fission source, also known as a nuclear reactor, is used as a source of energy to power a rocket. The energy released from fission reactions is used to heat a propellant, which is then expelled out of the rocket nozzle to generate thrust.

2. How is a fission source different from a traditional chemical rocket?

A fission source is different from a traditional chemical rocket in terms of the type of fuel used and the energy conversion process. While a chemical rocket uses chemical reactions to generate thrust, a fission source uses nuclear reactions. This allows for a higher energy output and longer duration of thrust, making it more suitable for long-distance space travel.

3. What are the potential risks of using a fission source as a rocket?

The main risk of using a fission source as a rocket is the potential for radioactive material to be released into the environment in the event of an accident. However, extensive safety measures and protocols are in place to prevent such incidents from occurring. Additionally, researchers are constantly working on developing new and safer fission reactor designs.

4. Can a fission-powered rocket be used for manned space missions?

Yes, a fission-powered rocket can be used for manned space missions. In fact, some proposed designs for future spacecraft, such as NASA's Kilopower project, aim to use fission reactors as a power source for long-term manned missions to Mars and beyond.

5. Are there any other potential applications for fission-powered rockets?

Apart from space travel, fission-powered rockets can also be used for deep space exploration and potentially for powering space stations or habitats on other planets. Additionally, some researchers are exploring the possibility of using fission reactors to power electric propulsion systems for spacecraft.

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