Is a photo essay I bought years ago and rarely looked at. I was going to get rid of it, but then flicking through I came across this wonderful picture.

It looks like some bizarre sci-fi drawing, but is in fact a prototype nuclear-powered jet engine. Read more about it at nuclearfiles.org, which has the full set of piccies from the book, but I think I got the exposure better on mine.

Comments

  1. #1 Luboš Motl
    2008/02/06

    Wow, the West was pretty rich at that times… I thought it was a 18th century train wagon.

  2. #2 Dunc
    2008/02/06

    In what way is a nuclear powered jet engine on a train not bizarre sci-fi? I mean, aside from the fact that it was actually real? It’s right up there with radium health tonics…

    [Weeeeelllll it was a serious project, they spent an entirely non-fictional $1B on it, and even flew the reactor in a plane (though not for power) -W]

  3. #3 P. Lewis
    2008/02/06

    The technology and politics of aircraft nuclear propulsion.

  4. #4 Dunc
    2008/02/07

    Interesting. However, I can find no mention of what is probably the single most important factor in aircraft engine design – power to weight ratio. Plus there’s the interesting question of what happens if you fly it into a mountain…

    They spent a stupid amount of money on remote viewing too.

  5. #5 P. Lewis
    2008/02/07

    Perhaps that was what they were going to spend the second billion dollars on! :-)

  6. #6 Adam
    2008/02/08

    “Plus there’s the interesting question of what happens if you fly it into a mountain…”

    They probably assumed it would be a Soviet mountain. Maybe they hoped that would happen, in a sort of cross between Dr Strangelove & “Fade Out”?

    (Fade Out is a novel by Patrick Tilley).

  7. Oooh, that is a bit of a beastie! Whatever’s the point of such an engine though? It hardly looks like the most economical of propulsion systems!

  8. #8 Jay Alt
    2008/02/24

    A former boss of mine worked on such projects for GE in the 60s. The goal was to build a plane that never had to land.

    Interesting. However, I can find no mention of what is probably the single most important factor in aircraft engine design – power to weight ratio.

    The weight of the reactor may have been solvable. The mass of the shielding was not.