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NERVA Engine Gallery


The sign next to the NERVA engine. It reads


This innovative Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Applications (NERVA) was an experimental nuclear engine designed for long-duration manned space flight, including a proposed manned mission to Mars. There was no combustion of propellants inside this engine. Rather, liquid hydrogen was superheated as it passed through a nuclear reactor, then expelled through the nozzle. This design achieved a much higher specific impulse than even the Space Shuttle Main Engine. In addition, the thrust, although less than that of an SSME, could be sustained long-term for deep space exploration. Despite these technological successes, development plans for NERVA were eventually canceled out of concern over the use of nuclear materials for manned space flight.

Aerojet-General Corporation (prime contractor)
Westinghouse Corporation (reactor)

Developed for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and NASA.

Time picture taken Fri Jun 20 13:55:56 2003
Location picture taken Rocket Park
U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Huntsville, AL
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