Encyclopedia Astronautica

Nuclear thermal engines use the heat of a nuclear reactor to heat a propellant. Although early Russian designs used ammonia or an ammonia/alcohol mixture as propellant, the ideal working fluid for space applications is the liquid form of the lightest element, hydrogen. Although successfully ground-tested in both Russia, they have never been flown due primarily to environmental and safety concerns.

Ammonia / alcohol mixture heated in a nuclear reactor to produce thrust.

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Associated Engines
  • YaRD OKB-670 Bondaryuk nuclear/ammonia+alcohol rocket engine. 1667 kN. Development ended 1960. Isp=470s. Proposed for YaRD nuclear-powered ICBM. Propellant was heated in the reactor and exhausted through four expansion nozzles. More...

Associated Stages
  • YaRD ICBM OKB-670 Nuclear/Ammonia+Alcohol propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 96,000/8,800 kg. Thrust 1,660.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 470 seconds. Nuclear-propelled ICBM with engines in development by Bondayuk. Four expansion nozzles fed by single reactor. Payload 4,000 kg to 14,000 km. Empty mass, vehicle length calculated. More...

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