Prometheus Woes

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Astronuc
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http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=397376&category=BUSINESS&newsdate=9/10/2005 [Broken]
End of $65 million program leaves 150 employees hired for Prometheus work with uncertain futures

By ERIC ANDERSON, Deputy business editor
First published: Saturday, September 10, 2005

NISKAYUNA -- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has pulled the plug on a $65 million nuclear propulsion research program at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, leaving 150 employees in limbo.

"NASA and Naval Reactors have mutually agreed to terminate their partnership to work on Prometheus," as the program was called, a Knolls spokeswoman said Friday afternoon. "NASA has been changing its priorities. I don't have many details on this," she added.

Knolls added 350 employees this year, 150 of them specifically for the space research program, and it planned to add more in 2006.

Well - I have seen this before - no surprises here. :grumpy:

This is what many nuclear and aerospace engineers have to face in their careers, since the late 1980's.
 
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It hits home

My current employer was scheduled this year to start building a prototype manufacturing facility for this fuel. It was high hopes for us.
 
Astronuc
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Prepared Statement by Michael Griffin - House Science Committee Hearing: "Status of NASA's Programs"

November 3, 2005

Statement of

Michael D. Griffin, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration before the Committee on Science, House of Representatives
...

Prometheus Nuclear Systems and Technology (PNS&T):

Prior to the completion of the ESAS study, NASA was planning to restructure the Prometheus Nuclear Systems and Technology (PNS&T) program to prioritize NASA's nuclear technology development efforts to provide power on the surface of the Moon for a lunar outpost. ESAS results indicate that, given resource constraints, surface nuclear power systems to support potential long-duration stays on the Moon will not be required until after 2018. Nuclear propulsion will not be required until planning for Mars missions begins in earnest. The result of the findings is a total reformulation in the nuclear program, deferring all work until it is needed, yielding $76 million in FY 2006 to accelerate development of CEV and CLV. Funding at these lower levels also assumed that remaining JIMO project activity was concluded at the Phase A Project Mission Systems Review milestone and that support for Prometheus by the DOE's Office of Naval Reactors will not continue. NASA has contacted the Office of Naval Reactors to initiate planning for termination actions on activities covered by the Memorandum of Understanding between NASA and DOE (National Nuclear Security Administration-Naval Reactors) regarding Civilian Space Nuclear Reactors. The bulk of the remaining FY 2005 and projected FY 2006 funds for this activity will be spent on termination costs. NASA will continue a low level of funding for key, high-priority, nuclear system R&T issues, with longer-term plans to increase funding in the future, as the need for long duration lunar and Mars applications approaches.
:grumpy:

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=18512
 
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It seems that NASA will never get around to doing anything, if they keep putting off and procrastinating research into something they may have to completely rely on someday. Did the ESAS cite what they meant by resource constraint? Perhaps manpower, constructing a reactor on the moon ought to require a lot of people.

Also, I believe I heard something before about nuclear materials being taken into space being illegal?
 
Astronuc
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http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/137448main_house_science_20051103.pdf
Prepared Statement by Michael Griffin - House Science Committee Hearing: "Status of NASA's Programs"
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=18570

Also, I believe I heard something before about nuclear materials being taken into space being illegal?
Not quite. It is illegal under international agreements to deploy nuclear weapons in space. Exploratory vehicles like Cassini and Galileo use RTG's based on alpha-decay of Pu238.
 
Morbius
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theCandyman said:
.
Also, I believe I heard something before about nuclear materials being taken into space being illegal?
Candyman,
As Astronuc stated, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans:
1) Placement of nuclear weapons or "weapons of mass destruction" in orbit around the Earth.
2) Installation of nuclear weapons or "weapons of mass destruction" on the moon, on any other celestial body, or in outer space
3) Use of the moon or any celestial body for military purposes, including weapons testing of any kind.
However, many satellites and probes [ especially those to the farther planets ], are
powered by RTGs. Additionally, the Russians have had orbitting satellites powered by
small nuclear reactors.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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