Preliminary analysis of three cycles for nuclear propulsion of aircraft

Humble, L V Wachtl, W W Doyle, R B
naca-rm-e50h24
October 13, 1950


A preliminary study was made of the feasibility of three cycles for nuclear propulsion of aircraft: a direct-air-turbojet, a binary liquid-metal turbojet, and a helium compressor jet. All three cycles appeared feasible for flight at a Mach number of 0.9 and altitudes up to 50,000 feet; the liquid-metal cycle appeared feasible for flight at a Mach number of 1.5. The air and helium cycles resulted in heavier aircraft than did the liquid-metal cycle, particularly at a Mach number of 1.5. The relative advantage of the liquid-metal cycle became greater as the flight speed and altitude increased, and as the reactor wall temperature decreased.

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