The Nuclear-Powered Aircraft to Explore Planet Jupiter

By: | January 13th, 2021

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Researchers from Sofia University in Bulgaria have proposed a nuclear-powered vessel to study Jupiter. As Jupiter has a thick atmosphere and surface-free set-up, this makes it an ideal exploration site. 

Researchers consider Jupiter an ideal place to be explored using a nuclear-powered flyer

Scientists explained in their study, “it features thick atmosphere suitable for aerodynamic flight, there is no solid surface that can be contaminated after the end of the mission, and the atmospheric data for designing a Flyer is readily available,” 

Jupiter is very far away from the Sun,so solar energy can’t be used to propel an aircraft in the atmosphere. 

Because Jupiter’s atmosphere is 90 percent hydrogen, scientists cannot even rely on combustion.

So, researchers are considering a “nuclear battery” type of propulsion that could sustain for decades. Moreover, it doesn’t require oxygen or sunlight.

Scientists wrote in their study, “The nuclear fuel has extremely high energy density that allows for months, if not years, of sustainable flight before the fuel is depleted. Unlike chemical combustion, the nuclear reaction does not rely on oxygen to produce heat. This enables flight in anaerobic atmospheres and without the need of carrying oxidizer,” 

Although the study is yet to be peer-reviewed, if this technology succeeds, spacecraft could help in exploring Jovian planets. It would be able to carry high-tech instruments to different Jovian moons. It will also be able to move in and out of the orbit of these moons.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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