Scorpion: A design study for a general-purpose space transportation system

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M. Hempsell (2019), JBIS, 72, pp.214-237

Refcode: 2019.72.214
Keywords: Scorpion, Martinís Law, nuclear-thermal-electric propulsion, Serpent engine

The Scorpion is a spacecraft concept that has the intended purpose of being a multirole human space transport system that supports high earth orbit, lunar and near interplanetary flight. The study objective was to explore what is possible with realisable technology to contrast with what we currently actually have, to illustrate the working of Martin’s law within the Space industry. The spacecraft is 107 m long with a dry mass of 230 tonnes, it has a crew of 6 people and can be spun to provide artificial gravity. It has significant internal and external provisions for carrying payload, whether pure cargo or mission specific equipment. The prime propulsion is provided by a hybrid thermal/electrical fission nuclear propulsion system, called Serpent-H, which has a thrust of 200 tonnes and an exhaust velocity of 12.7 km/sec. As a result the Scorpion would create a capability significantly surpassing the infrastructure outlined in NASAs Post Apollo programme. A provisional parametric cost estimate suggests the implementation and operational costs would be comparable to other aerospace programmes that have been funded since the Apollo programme. This demonstrates that the failure to advance human space flight is about mankind’s comprehension and motivation – not technical or financial constraints.

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