All posts by Pete Lobner

75th Anniversary of the Kurchatov Institute

The I. V. Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in Moscow was founded 75 years ago, in 1943, and is named for its founder, Soviet nuclear physicist Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov.  Until 1955, the Institute was a secret organization known only as “Laboratory No. 2 of the USSR Academy of Sciences.”  The initial focus of the Institute was the development of nuclear weapons.

Kurchatov Institute 75thanniversary on Russian commemorative postage stamp. https://en.wikipedia.org/

I. V. Kurchatov and the team of scientists and engineers at the Institute led or supported many important historical Soviet nuclear milestones, including: 

  • 25 December 1946: USSR’s F-1 (Physics-1) reactor achieved initial criticality at Kurchatov Institute.  This was the 1st reactor built and operated outside the US.
  • 10 June 1948: USSR’s 1st plutonium production reactor achieved initial criticality (Unit A at Chelyabinak-65). The reactor was designed under the leadership of N. A. Dollezhal.
  • 29 August 1949: USSR’s 1st nuclear device, First Lightning [aka RDS-1, Izdeliye 501 (device 501) and Joe 1], was detonated at the Semipalatinsk test site in what is now Kazakhstan.  This was the 1st nuclear test other than by the US.
  • 27 June 1954: World’s 1st nuclear power plant, AM-1 (aka APS-1), was commissioned and connected to the electrical grid, delivering power in Obninsk.  AM-1 was designed under the leadership of N. A. Dollezhal.
  • 22 November 1955: USSR’s 1st thermonuclear device (RDS-37, a two-stage device) was detonated at the Semipalatinsk test site.  This also was the world’s 1stair-dropped thermonuclear device.
  • 5 December 1957: USSR’s 1st nuclear-powered icebreaker, Lenin, was launched.  This also was the world’s 1st nuclear-powered surface ship.
  • 4 July 1958: USSR’s 1st  nuclear-powered submarine, Project 627 SSN K-3, Leninskiy Komsomol, made its 1st underway on nuclear power.
  • 1958: World’s 1st Tokamak, T-1, initial operation at Kurchatov Institute.
I. V. Kurchatov and F-1 reactor on Russian commemorative postage stamp. Source:  Wikimedia Commons

I. V. Kurchatov served as the Institute’s director until his death in 1960 and was awarded Hero of Socialist Labor three times and Order of Lenin five times during his lifetime.

After I. V. Kurchatov’s death in 1960, the noted academician Anatoly P. Aleksandrov was appointed as the director of the Institute and continued in that role until 1989.  Aleksandrov already had a key role at the Institute, having been appointed by Stalin in September 1952 as the scientific supervisor for developing the USSR’s first nuclear-powered submarine and its nuclear power unit.

A. P. Aleksandrov and OK-150 reactor on Russian commemorative postage stamp. Source:  Wikimedia Commons

Until 1991, the Soviet Ministry of Atomic Energy oversaw the administration of Kurchatov Institute.  After the formation of the Russian Federation at the end of 1991, the Institute became a State Scientific Center reporting directly to the Russian Government.  Today, the President of Kurchatov Institute is appointed by the Russian Prime Minister, based on recommendations from Rosatom (the Russian State Energy Corporation), which was formed in 2007.

You’ll find a comprehensive history of Kurchatov Institute in a 2013 (70thanniversary) special issue of the Russian version of Scientific American magazine, which you can download here:

 https://sciam.ru/download_issues/7/47.pdf

The evolution of Kurchatov Institute capabilities from its initial roles on the Soviet nuclear weapons program is shown in the following diagram.

Source: Special issue 2013, www.scientificrussia.ru

Modern roles for Kurchatov Institute are shown in the following graphic.

Source: Special issue 2013, www.scientificrussia.ru

In the past 75 years, the Kurchatov Institute has performed many major roles in the Soviet / Russian nuclear industry and, with a national security focus, continues to be a driving force in that industry sector.

Now, lets take a look at a few of the pioneering nuclear projects led or supported by Kurchatov Institute:

  • F-1 (Physics-1) reactor
  • Plutonium production reactors
  • Obninsk nuclear power plant AM-1
  • T-1 Tokamak

F-1 (Physics-1) reactor

The F-1 reactor designed by the Kurchatov Institute was a graphite-moderated, air-cooled, natural uranium fueled reactor with a spherical core about 19 feet (5.8 meters) in diameter. F-1 was the first reactor to be built and operated outside of the US.  It was a bit more compact than the first US reactor, the Chicago Pile, CP-1, which had an ellipsoidal core with a maximum diameter of about 24.2 feet (7.4 meters) and a height of 19 feet (5.8 meters).

The F-1 achieved initial criticality on 25 December 1946 and initially was operated at a power level of 10 watts.  Later, F-1 was able to operate at a maximum power level of 24 kW to support a wide range of research activities. In a 2006 report on the reactor’s 60thanniversary by RT News (www.rt.com), Oleg Vorontsov, Deputy Chief of the Nuclear Security Department reported, “Layers of lead as they are heated by uranium literally make F1 a self-controlling nuclear reactor. And the process inside is called – the safe-developing chain reaction of uranium depletion. If the temperature rises to 70 degrees Celsius (158° Fahrenheit), it slows down by its own! So it simply won’t let itself get out of control.” 

F-1 was never refueled prior to its permanent shutdown in November 2016, after 70 years of operation.

Top of the F-1 reactor core. Source: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/
F-1 reactor facility cross-section diagram.  The F-1 reactor is the igloo-shaped structure located in the open pit.  Source: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/
Graphite stacks of the F-1 reactor.  Source: Kurchatov Institute

Plutonium production reactors

The first generation of Soviet plutonium production reactors were graphite-moderated, natural uranium fueled reactors designed under the leadership of N.A. Dollezhal while he was at the Institute of Chemical Machinery in Moscow.  The Kurchatov Institute had a support role in the development of these reactors.The five early production reactors at Chelyabinsk-65 (later known as the Mayak Production Association) operated with a once-through primary cooling water system that discharged into open water ponds.

Simplified cross-section of a Russian graphite-moderated, water-cooled plutonium production reactor.  Source: PNL-9982

Four of the five later graphite-moderated production reactors at Tomsk had closed primary cooling systems that enabled them to also generate electric power and provide district heating (hot water) for the surrounding region.  You’ll find a good synopsis of the Soviet plutonium production reactors in the 2011 paper by Anatoli Diakov, “The History of Plutonium Production in Russia,” here:  

http://scienceandglobalsecurity.org/archive/sgs19diakov.pdf

Additional details on the design of the production reactors is contained in the 1994 Pacific Northwest Laboratory report PNL-9982, “Summary of Near-term Options for Russian Plutonium Production Reactors,” by Newman, Gesh, Love and Harms.  This report is available on the OSTI website here:   

https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/10173950

Obninsk nuclear power plant AM-1 (Atom Mirny or “Peaceful Atom”)

AM-1 nuclear power plant exterior view.  Source:  tass.ru
Panoramic view of the AM-1 power plant control room.  Source: www.chistoprudov.ru via https://reactor.space/news_en/

Obninsk was the site of the world’s first nuclear power plant (NPP).  This NPP had a single graphite-moderated, water-cooled reactor fueled with low-enriched uranium fuel. The reactor had a maximum power rating of 30 MWt.  AM-1 was designed by N.A. Dollezhal and the Research and Development Institute of Power Engineering (RDIPE / NIKIET) in Moscow, as an evolution of an earlier Dollezhal design of a small graphite-moderated reactor for ship propulsion.  The Kurchatov Institute had a support role in the development of AM-1.

The basic AM-1 reactor layout is shown in the following diagram.

Source: Directory of Nuclear Reactors, Vol. IV, Power Reactors, International Atomic Energy Agency, 1962

The closed-loop primary cooling system delivered heat via steam generators to the secondary-side steam system, which drove a steam turbine generator that delivered 5 MWe (net) to the external power grid.   Following is a basic process flow diagram for the reactor cooling loops.

Source: Directory of Nuclear Reactors, Vol. IV, Power Reactors, International Atomic Energy Agency, 1962

Construction on AM-1 broke ground on 31 December 1950 at the Physics and Power Engineering Institute (PEI) in Obninsk, about 110 km southwest of Moscow.  Other early milestone dates were:

  • Initial criticality:  5 May 1954
  • Commissioning and first grid connection:  26 June 1954
  • Commercial operation:  30 November 1954

In addition to its power generation role, AM-1 had 17 test loops installed in the reactor to support a variety of experimental studies. After 48 years of operation, AM-1 was permanently shutdown on 28 April 2002.

You can read more details on AM-1 in the following two articles: “Obninsk: Number One,” by Lev Kotchetkov on the Nuclear Engineering International website here:

 https://www.neimagazine.com/features/featureobninsk-number-one

“Anniversary at Obninsk: The First Commercial Nuclear Power Plant,” by Will Davis on the ANS Nuclear Café website here:

 http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2015/06/24/anniversary-at-obninsk-the-first-commercial-nuclear-power-plant/#sthash.4wTrQueH.vhtfLcPK.dpbs

The AM-1 nuclear power plant design was developed further by NIKIET into the much larger scale RBMK (Reaktor Bolshoy Moshchnosti Kanalnyy, “High Power Channel-type Reactor”) NPPs.  The four reactors at the Chernobyl NPP were RBMK-1000 reactors.

The T-1 Tokamak

Research on plasma confinement is a toroidal magnetic field began in Russia in 1951, leading to the construction of the first experimental toroidal magnetic confinement system, known as a tokamak, at Kurchatov Institute. T-1 began operation in 1958.  

T-1 Tokamak.  Source: https://www.iter.org/sci/BeyondITER

Early operation of T-1 and successive models revealed many problems that limited the plasma confinement capabilities of tokamaks.  Solving these problems led to a better understanding of plasma physics and significant improvements in the design of tokamak machines.  You’ll find a historical overview of early Soviet / Russian work on Tokamaks in a 2010 IAEA paper by V. P. Smirnov, ”Tokamak Foundation in USSR/Russia 1950–1990,” which you can read here:

 https://fire.pppl.gov/nf_50th_5_Smirnov.pdf

The basic tokamak design for magnetic plasma confinement has been widely implemented in many international fusion research machines, winning out over other magnetic confinement concepts, including the Stellarator machine championed in the US by Dr. Lyman Spitzer (see my 30 August 2017 post on Stellarators).  Major international tokamak projects include the Joint European Torus (JET) at the Culham Center for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, UK, the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in the US, the JT-60 at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Naka Fusion Institute, and most recently the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built now at the Saclay Nuclear Center in southern France.


Lots of Land Speed Record (LSR) Action in 2018

The first land speed record (LSR) at greater than 400 mph (643.7 kph) was set on 17 July 1964 by UK driver Donald Campbell in the wheel-driven, gas turbine-powered streamliner named Bluebird CN7. Regarding his new official land speed record of 403.10 mph (648.73 kph) in the measured mile, a disappointed Campbell is reported to have said, “We’ve made it – we got the bastard at last.”  Campbell thought the Bluebird CN7 was capable of much higher speeds, but did not mount another LSR challenger with that car.

This year, 54 years after Campbell’s record run, Team Vesco’s Turbinator II became the first wheel-driven vehicle to exceed 500 mph (804.7 kph).  In addition, there are several LSR contenders in diverse vehicle designs that regularly are making runs in the 400 – 500 mph range.  Donald Campbell might be impressed with the current state of the “sport.”  Let’s take a look at what’s happened in 2018.

1. Governing land speed records

The FIA (Fédération Internationale de L’Automobile) establishes the process for making world land speed record (LSR) attempts and certifying the resulting speeds.  FIA record attempts are standardized over a fixed length course (mile and kilometer) and averaged over two runs in opposite directions that must be completed within one hour.  The FIA’s home page for land speed records is at the following link:

https://www.fia.com/fia-world-land-speed-records

You’ll find the FIA’s technical regulations governing LSR attempts in Appendix D at the following link:

https://www.fia.com/appendix-d-regulations-land-speed-record-attempts-2018

The FIA defines four basic categories of LSR vehicles:

  • Category A LSR vehicles are purpose-built, wheel-driven automobiles that may be powered by any of a variety of engines, including Otto cycle (4-cycle), Diesel cycle (2-cycle), rotary, electrical, gas turbine, or steam, or any hybrid combination of these engines. 
  • Category B LSR vehicles are derived from series production automobiles, with the same basic engine options as Category A (as long as you can stuff it into a series production automobile). 
  • Category C applies to “special automobiles,” including LSR vehicles that are not wheel-driven, but instead are powered by the thrust of jet and/or rocket engines.
  • Category D LSR vehicles are drag racing automobiles.

Within Categories A and B, the FIA defines Groups based on fuel type and Classes based on engine displacement and vehicle weight.  In Category C, Groups may be defined based on engine type.

World motorcycle LSR records are managed separately by the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme).

In contrast to FIA LSR rules, US National land speed records are the average of two runs going in the same direction over a two-day period.  The rationale is that national events such as Bonneville Speed Week involve too many vehicles to swap directions on the course in less than 60 minutes.  The basic processes defined by the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) and used during Speed Week are as follows:

For each run on the Bonneville five-mile long course, five different speeds are determined:

  • The first speed reported is referred to as the “quarter” and is the average speed over a 1,320-foot (quarter mile) timing trap that starts at the 2-mile marker. 
  • Next, times are recorded and average speeds are determined over three flying mile intervals: from mile 2 to mile 3, from mile 3 to mile 4 (the “middle mile”), and from mile 4 to mile 5. Official time slips refer to these as Mile 3, Mile 4, and Mile 5.
  • The final timing number is called “exit speed”, or terminal speed, which is an average speed measured over a 132-foot trap at the end of Mile 5.

When a car makes a first run at a speed greater than an existing record, it goes into “impound,” where the following process applies:

  • After being impounded, the team has four hours to work on the car. 
  • The team must be back at the track by 6 AM the next day, when it has another hour of prepare the car for the second run (i.e., add fuel, ice coolant, etc.). 
  • The car must be at the start line by 7 AM, ready to make its second run. 

If the average between the two runs is greater than the existing record, a new National record is awarded.

The SCTA defines several vehicle categories, with their Category A (special construction vehicles) being comparable to FIA Category A. 

2. Category C LSR contenders in 2018

Category C LSR contenders, with jet or rocket propulsion, have been the fastest LSR vehicles in the world since Craig Breedlove set the absolute land speed record at 407.447 mph (655.722 kph) in the measured mile at Bonneville on 5 August 1963 in the turbojet-powered, three-wheeled Spirit of America.  The FIA considered this to be an unofficial record because Spirit of America only had three wheels.  This record later was ratified by the FIM. Since 1963, six other Category C LSR vehicles have held the absolute land speed record:  Wingfoot Express, Green Monster, Spirit of America Sonic 1, Blue Flame, Thrust2 and ThrustSSC (supersonic car).

The current FIA absolute land speed records are: 

  • 763.035 mph (1,227.986 kph) for the measured mile, and 
  • 760.343 mph (1,223.657 kph) for the measured kilometer

These records were set on 15 October 1997 by the UK LSR vehicle Thrust SSC, which completed the required two runs in opposite directions within one hour on a track in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.  Thrust SSC was driven by Andy Green when it became the first supersonic LSR vehicle, achieving an average speed through the measured gates of Mach 1.016.

In 2018, the two primary Category C LSR contenders were the UK Bloodhound SSC, which is under development and successfully completed low speed trials (> 200 mph, 322 kph), and the US North American Eagle, which has been running for many years and has reached a maximum speed of > 500 mph (805 kph).  Following is a brief review of these Category C LSR programs.

Bloodhound SSC – Did it die in 2018, or is there still hope? 

In posts in March 2015, September 2015 and January 2017, I reported on the ambitious UK project to create a 1,000 mph land speed record car known as the Bloodhound SSC. 

In 2006, Lord Drayson, the UK Minister of Science, proposed developing a new UK LSR vehicle to LSR holders Richard Noble (Thrust 2) and Andy Green (Thrust SSC).  This led to the formation of the Bloodhound SSC project, which was announced on 23 October 2008, along with an associated education component designed to inspire future generations to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Bloodhound SSC project website is here:

http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/project

Original plans were for the Bloodhound SSC to make its LSR runs on the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa (see my March 2015 post), with initial trial runs starting in 2016.  As development of Bloodhound SSC continued, the dates for the initial LSR runs slipped gradually to 2017, 2018 and most recently to the end of 2019.

In 2017, Bloodhound SSC conducted five weeks of testing, including its first successful public “shakedown” run on 26 October 2017, on the 9,000 foot (1.67 mile, 2.7 km) runway at the Cornwall Airport in Newquay, UK.  Powered by its Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine and driven by Andy Green, Bloodhound SSC reached a modest top speed of 210 mph (378 kph) on this short runway.  

Bloodhound SSC at Newquay. Source: http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/news/

You’ll find a YouTube video of the Newquay trial runs here:

The trials at Newquay demonstrated the satisfactory performance of vehicle systems and provided confidence for further development and testing. In 2018, Bloodhound SSC remained in the UK, but no further trial runs were made.

In 15 October 2018, Bloodhound Programme Ltd., the UK company behind the Bloodhound SSC, entered into “administration,” which is comparable to a Chapter 11 filing in the US and is intended to give a company in financial difficulties protection from creditors for a limited period while it attempts to reorganize and seek new financing. Bloodhound Programme Ltd. was seeking about $33 million (about £25 million) to fund the program through the actual land speed record attempts in South Africa in 2020 – 2021.

Source: http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/news/

On 7 December 2018, BBC News reported that the attempts to reorganize had failed.  Joint administrator Andrew Sheridan reported, “Despite overwhelming public support, and engagement with a wide range of potential and credible investors, it has not been possible to secure a purchaser for the business and assets.” You can read the BBC report here:

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-46480342

Plans are being implemented to return or sell assets.  Driver Andy Green said the Bloodhound SSC vehicle was now available for sale at a price of about £250,000 ($318,275).

Let’s hope that the Bloodhound SSC project can find a last minute investor and a route to recovery.

North American Eagle – Continuing to make progress in 2018

Ed Shadle and Keith Zanghi started the North American Eagle LSR project 20 years ago, in 1998.  Their idea was to take a surplus Lockheed F-104 jet fighter fuselage with a General Electric J-79 jet engine and afterburner and create a viable absolute LSR challenger.  The result of their efforts, with assistance from a team of volunteers and support from many sponsors, is the North American Eagle LSR vehicle shown below. 

Source:  https://www.landspeed.com

 The North American Eagle team website is here:

https://www.landspeed.com

You can view a YouTube video on the North American Eagle LSR program here:

Here’s a shorter video of the September 2016 speed run in the Alvord Desert in Oregon. During this run, driver Jessi Combs achieved a maximum speed of 477.59 mph (768.60 kph):

The North American Eagle team website reports:  “To date, we have made over 57 test runs, already attaining a top speed of 515 mph. This is only the beginning though.  In September 2018, with Jessi Combs at the helm, she made a 483.227 mph (run).  In 2019 she will attempt (to exceed) the 512 mph Fastest Woman record, as well as the single engine speed record. Both of these are major milestones on the road to 800 mph.”

Founder Ed Shadle died on 7 September 2018.  Jessi Combs is now the primary driver and the team is expecting to continue its LSR program in 2019.

3. Category A LSR contenders in 2018

At the beginning of 2018, the FIA land speed record for wheel-driven, piston-powered vehicles was held by Speed Demon, which set the record on 17 September 2012:

  • 439.024 mph (706.540 kph) for the measured mile, and
  • 439.562 mph (707.408) kph for the measured kilometer 

The FIA record for wheel-driven, turbine-powered vehicles was held by Turbinator, which set the record on 18 October 2001:

  • 458.444 mph (737.794 kph) for the measured mile, and
  • 458.196 mph (737.395 kph) for the measured kilometer 

2018 was an exciting year in Category A, with the two primary Category A LSR contenders, Challenger 2 and Turbinator II, raising their respective speed records for wheel-driven vehicles and Turbinator II making the first unofficial Category A one-way run at > 500 mph (805 kph). Five different LSR vehicles made runs at > 400 mph (644 kph) during the SCTA Bonneville Speed Week, which was held from 11 – 17 August 2018: 

  • Challenger 2 
  • Turbinator II 
  • Speed Demon 
  • Flashpoint 
  • Carbiliner 

At the rain foreshortened Bonneville World Finals held on 2 October 2018, the following three LSR vehicles made runs at > 400 mph (644 kph):

  • Turbinator II
  • Speed Demon
  • Eddie’s Chop Shop streamliner

Following is a brief review of these Category A LSR programs.

You’ll find the complete results from Speed Week 2018, World Finals 2018 and other SCTA events on their website:

http://www.scta-bni.org/home.html

Challenger 2 – Raised the wheel-driven, piston engine LSR in 2018

On 9 September 1960, Mickey Thompson, driving the four-engine, wheel-driven Challenger 1 streamliner, achieved a one-way speed of 406.60 mph (654.36 kph) in the flying mile on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Unfortunately, Challenger 1 was was unable to make the second run required by the FIA for an official land speed record.  Thus, the existing absolute and Category A LSRs set on 16 September 1947 by John Cobb driving the Railton Mobile Express continued to stand at 394.19 mph (634.39 kph) for the measured mile and 394.196 mph (643.196 kph) for the measured kilometer.

Cobb’s absolute LSR was eclipsed on 5 August 1963 by Craig Breedlove, driving the turbojet-powered (Category C, not wheel-driven) Spirit of America to a speed of 407.447 mph (655.722 kph) in the measured mile on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The following year, Cobb’s wheel-driven LSR was further eroded on 17 July 1964 when Donald Campbell set a Category A record of 403.10 mph (648.73 km/h) in the measured mile in the wheel-driven, Proteus gas turbine-powered Bluebird CN7 on the dry salt bed at Lake Eyre, Australia.

Cobb’s wheel-driven, piston engine LSR record and Campbell’s wheel-driven LSR both fell on 12 November 1965 when Bob Summers drove the four-engine Goldenrod LSR car to 409.277 mph (658.526 kph) in the measured mile on the Bonneville Salt Flats.  By then, several turbojet-powered Category C LSR vehicles and had raised the absolute LSR to more than 555 mph (893 kph).

In an effort to regain the Category A LSR crown, Mickey Thompson built the greatly improved Challenger 2 for a planned LSR challenge in 1968. The unblown (not supercharged), two-engine Challenger 2 ran at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1968 with trial speeds approaching 400 mph (644 kph), but rain prevented an LSR run that year.  Following the loss of key LSR sponsors in 1969, Mickey Thompson mothballed the Challenger 2 for almost two decades.

Mickey Thompson and son Danny removed Challenger 2 from storage in January 1988 and developed plans for a 1989 LSR challenge. These plans were cancelled following the tragic murder of Mickey Thompson and his wife in March 1988. Once again, Challenger 2 was placed in long-term storage. In 2010, Danny Thompson began efforts to prepare Challenger 2 for an LSR run intended to “vindicate his father’s faith in the streamliner.”  The modernized Challenger 2 retained the original chassis and hand-formed aluminum skin, resulting in an almost unchanged external appearance.  The original engines and drive trains were removed and replaced by more powerful dry block, nitromethane-fueled, unblown Hemi V8 engines in an all-wheel drive configuration. Other modifications were made to comply with current FIA and SCTA regulations for LSR attempts. You’ll find details on the updated Challenger 2 on the Thompson LSR website here:

http://thompsonlsr.com/about/

Challenger 2 test runs started in June 2014 and speed runs on Bonneville’s full-length course began in September 2014.  

On 12 August 2018, during Bonneville Speed Week and 50 years after its original runs at Bonneville, Challenger 2 driven by Danny Thompson set a new class record of 448.757 mph (772.204 kph) for the measured mile, breaking the record held by Speed Demon since September 2012.  This record currently stands as the fastest overall wheel-driven, piston-powered land speed record.  You can view a YouTube video on the Challenger racing team and the 2018 LSR run here:

Challenger 2. Source: http://thompsonlsr.com 

The Challenger 2 is now retired. Thank you Danny Thompson for resurrecting this amazing car and mounting a successful LSR challenge. Your Dad, Mickey Thompson, would be very proud of you and your team.

Turbinator II – Raised the wheel-driven vehicle LSR record in 2018

Team Vesco has been a long-time contender in land speed record racing.  You’ll find a history of and their many projects and LSR challenges on the team website here:

http://www.teamvesco.com/home.html

Team Vesco introduced the original Turbinator to the public in 1996 with the goals of setting a new wheel-driven LSR and becoming the first wheel-driven vehicle to exceed 500 mph.  Turbinator was powered by a single, stock 3,750 hp Lycoming T55 gas turbine engine (a former turboshaft helicopter engine) delivering power to a four-wheel drive system.  On 18 October 2001, the Turbinator, driven by Don Vesco, eclipsed Donald Campbell’s 37-year old land speed record, raising the FIA Category A LSR to 458.440 mph (737.788 kph). 

A 2011 paper in the University of Leicester (UK) Journal of Physics Special Topics, by Back, Brown, Hall and Turner, estimated the top speeds of the Turbinator to be 486 mph (782 kph) and its follow-on, the Turbinator II with a 4,400 hp engine, to be 509 mph (819 kph).  You can read this paper here:

https://journals.le.ac.uk/ojs1/index.php/pst/article/view/1995/1897

Turbinator II is an update of the original Turbinator, using an uprated Lycoming gas turbine delivering somewhere between 4,300 – 5,000 hp power to all four wheels. You can see what a high speed run in Turbinator II looks like in the following video made on 13 August 2018 when driver Dave Spangler raised the fastest mile speed to 463.038 mph (745.187 kph) during Bonneville Speed Week.

Just six weeks after Danny Thompson raised the LSR for wheel-driven, piston-engine vehicles to 448.757 mph (772.204 kph) with Challenger 2, Team Vesco raised the wheel-driven vehicle National class record to 482.646 mph (776.743 kph) on 15 September 2018 with Dave Spangler driving Turbinator II at the Bonneville World of Speed time trials hosted by the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFRA). 

Source: https://autoweek.com/

Read more about this Turbinator II LSR record for wheel-driven vehicles at:

https://autoweek.com/article/racing/team-vesco-eclipses-wheel-driven-land-speed-record-482-mph-run-bonneville#ixzz5Z9hfMeon

At the Bonneville World Finals on 2 October 2018, Turbinator II made a one-way run through the measured mile of 493.996 mph (795.009 kph), with an exit speed of 503.332 mph (810.034 kph). Turbinator II became the world’s first wheel-driven vehicle to exceed 500 mph and 800 kph.  Weather precluded making the second run needed for an official record. You can view this speed run here:

With continuing improvements being made to the vehicle, Turbinator II appears to be a good candidate for being the first LSR vehicle to set an FIA land speed record at > 500 mph.

Speed Demon

On 17 September 2012, Speed Demon, driven by George Poteet at Bonneville, established an FIA Category A land speed record of 439.024 mph (706.540 kph) for the measured mile and 439.562 mph (707.408 kph) for the measured kilometer.  For this record run, Speed Demon was powered by a turbocharged, 2,200 hp, 368 cubic inch small block Chevy engine driving the rear wheels. This record stood until 12 August 2018 when it was eclipsed by Danny Thompson in the Challenger 2.

Source:  http://landspeedevents.com/blog/poteet-and-main/

The original Speed Demon was destroyed on 12 September 2014 after a crash at 375 mph (606 kph) during a speed run at Bonneville, possibly due to a temporary loss of traction on the salt track.  You can read a synopsis of George Poteet’s recollection of this crash here:

https://www.good-guys.com/hotnews/george-poteet-recalls-375mph-bonneville-crash/

In an all-new Speed Demon, George Poteet returned to land speed racing in 2016.  The new Speed Demon is powered by a single, twin-turbocharged, small-block V8 engine delivering over 2,600 hp to the rear wheels.  You’ll find details on Speed Demon’s V8 piston engine here: 

http://blog.diamondracing.net/inside-team-speed-demons-400mph-ls-engine

The “new” Speed Demon. Source: Speed Demon Racing

In its current incarnation, Speed Demon is a strong LSR challenger that appears to have the potential to exceed 500 mph.

  • During Bonneville Speed Week in August 2018, Speed Demon made three runs at > 400 mph, with the fastest being 452.255 mph.
  • During the foreshortened Bonneville World Finals in October 2018, Speed Demon made one run at 431.435 mph.

You’ll find more information on the Speed Demon team homepage here:

http://speeddemon.us

Flashpoint Streamliner

Flashpoint streamliner made its debut on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2013. It is powered by a 482 cubic inch, nitromethane burning blown Hemi V8. In its 2013 debut, the streamliner achieved a top speed of 395 mph (636 kph). The team has announced a goal of exceeding 500 mph (805 kph).

The Flashpoint team homepage is at the following Facebook site:

https://www.facebook.com/Flashpoint7800/

On 16 September 2018, during the USFRA World of Speed at Bonneville, the Flashpoint Streamliner achieved a speed of 436.308 mph (702.170 kph) on its first run of the five-mile long course, with an exit speed of 451.197 mph (726.131 kph). On the second run, a tire failed at 427 mph (687 kph), causing a spectacular rollover crash.  Fortunately (and incredibly), driver Robert Dalton was uninjured.

Source: Murilee Martin/Autoweek
Aftermath of the crash.  Source: TheDrive

You can read more about the crash at the following link:

http://www.thedrive.com/news/23726/heres-what-a-427-mph-crash-on-the-bonneville-salt-flats-looks-like

Hopefully, the Flashpoint team will rebuild and we’ll see the next iteration of the potent Flashpoint Streamliner back in action in the future.

Carbinite LSR streamliner (Carbiliner)

Source, both photos above:  Carbinite LSR

The Carbiliner was designed and built over a seven-year period and made its first appearance at the Bonneville Speed Week in 2016.  It is a radically designed Category A streamliner, similar in design to successful Category C jet- and rocket-powered LSR vehicles from the early 1970s.  The Carbininte LSR team notes:

“Past efforts and current mindset in building Streamliners has focused on keeping the car aerodynamically neutral (no lift or downforce). This necessitates the addition of significant amounts of ballast to obtain enough traction for acceleration, resulting in two problems:

  1. The racing surface at Bonneville is not as flat as it once was due to deterioration of the salt. This causes the car to skip across the salt at higher speeds, breaking traction.
  2. The increased weight of the cars leads to slower acceleration. Cars may run out of track prior to reaching maximum speed.

The Carbinite LSR Streamliner design has addressed these problems.”

On means is through the use of active aerodynamic control surfaces on the rear wings (NACA 66-018 profile) that support the rear wheels and house the drive shafts.  The control surfaces are designed to generate over 3,000 pounds (1,361 kg) of downforce with minimum drag.  At low speed, the aerodynamic control surfaces are “full-up” at the start of acceleration.  As speed increases, the flaps are lowered to maintain the same amount of downforce. The flaps, speed-based boost control and fuel injection are managed by a Holley engine control unit (ECU).

Source, both photos above: https://www.carbinitelsr.com/index.html
Note the aero surfaces in the up position at the start of the run. Source: screenshot from video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQSt4ULIje0

The Carbiliner is powered by a single, twin-turbocharged, 540 cubic inch Chevy V8 burning methanol (starting in 2017) and delivering 2,400 – 2,800 hp to the the unsprung (no suspension) rear wheels. You’ll find a good technical description of the vehicle here:

http://blog.diamondracing.net/inside-team-carbinites-streamliner-and-the-quest-for-a-400mph-record

The team’s primary goal is “to break the 500 mph barrier at the next Bonneville Speed Week and become the fastest wheel driven car on the planet”.  In 2018, it was one of five LSR vehicles to exceed 400 mph during Speed Week, making runs of 406.750 mph (654.601 kph) and 413.542 mph (665.531 kph).  The team has work to do, but this radical LSR may have the potential to achieve their primary goal.

Source: Popular Mechanics, https://www.popularmechanics.com/

You’ll find more information on the Carbinite LSR team home page is here:

https://www.carbinitelsr.com

Like the Bloodhound SSC project, the Carbinite LSR team has established an education program “to excite the next generation of students about careers in STEM, and to inspire students to think big!  Our program is geared for high school physics and shop students, as well as college engineering students.”  You’ll find a good video describing the Carbiliner’s aerodynamics and the STEM education program here:

Eddie’s Chop Shop streamliner

Ed Umland, of Orangevale, CA, reportedly built his 29-foot blown gas, aluminum bodied streamliner in 18 months with the goal of being able to exceed 400 mph at Bonneville.  The streamliner is powered by a single, twin-turbo, 439 cubic inch V8 engine driving the rear wheels.

Source:  Eddie’s Chop Shop

On 2 October 2018, during the foreshortened Bonneville World Finals, this streamliner achieved a speed of 403.996 mph (650.169 kph) in the measured mile, with an exit speed of 411.209 mph (661.777 kph).  Ed Umland has achieved his original goal, and his streamliner appears to have the potential to achieve higher speeds in the future.

Source:  Brandan Gillogly / https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/08/17/

You can view a short YouTube video of the Eddie’s Chop Shop streamliner running at Bonneville here.

More information is available on the Eddie’s Chop Shop Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/Eddies-Chop-Shop-166750176726708/

4. In conclusion

The upper echelon of land speed racing is alive and well, in spite of the likely demise of the Category C Bloodhound SSC program.  There is great competition among the Category A wheel-driven LSR contenders in the 400 – 500 mph range, with records being raised in 2018 and the 500 mph and 800 kph “barriers” being broken for the first time. Next year should be pretty interesting, especially if the salt flats are in good condition.

I hope the Bloodhound SSC program will get a last-minute (last second) reprieve and, as in the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail,  be able to say, “I’m not dead yet.” 

60th Anniversary of the Atomium

The official Atomium’s website reports that 2018 marks the 60thanniversary of this iconic mid-century “atomic age” structure in Brussels.

“The Atomium was the main pavilion and icon of the World Fair of Brussels (1958), commonly called Expo 58.  It symbolized the democratic will to maintain peace among all the nations, faith in progress, both technical and scientific and, finally, an optimistic vision of the future of a modern, new, super-technological world for a better life for mankind.

The peaceful use of atomic energy for scientific purposes embodied these themes particularly well and, so, that is what determined the shape of the edifice.  At 102 meters high, with its nine interconnected spheres, it represents an elementary iron crystal enlarged 165 billion (thousand million) times. It was dreamed up by the engineer André Waterkeyn (1917-2005).  The spheres, though, were fitted out by the architects André and Jean Polak.

The Atomium was not intended to survive beyond the 1958 World Fair but its popularity and success soon made it a key landmark, first of Brussels then internationally.

Half a century later, the Atomium continues, for that matter, to embody those ideas of the future and universality.  And, among other things through its cultural programming, it carries on the debate begun in 1958:  What kind of future do we want for tomorrow?  What does happiness depend on?

Over and above the symbolic value linked to its history, the Atomium has become one of the icons of the city of Brussels: capital of Europe, with which it has a special relationship. Since its inspired restoration (2006), the landmark that many people call the most Belgian monument is also a museum with its permanent collections and temporary exhibitions.

The completely steel-clad Atomium is a kind of UFO in the cultural history of humanity, a mirror turned simultaneously towards the past and the future, comparing our utopias of yesterday with our dreams for tomorrow”

As originally built, the Atomium had a load-bearing steel structure enclosed in an aluminum skin.  After 40 years, the aluminum skin had lost its sheen and gaps had opened up in the joints between panels.  The two-year restoration, which was completed in February 2006, involved removing the aluminum skin and replacing it with a new polished stainless steel skin that maintained the original design while adding LED exterior lighting and other modern features for thermal, sound and fire insulation. You’ll find details on the renovation project in a 2007 Euro Inox report at the following link:

https://www.imoa.info/download_files/stainless-steel/euroinox/Atomium.pdf

Atomium during renovation.  Source: www.euro-inox.org

The restored Atomium at night. Source: https://www.brussels.be/60th-anniversary-atomium

Cross-section of the Atomium.  Source: adapted from https://www.brussels.be/60th-anniversary-atomium

The above cross-section diagram shows the areas of the Atomium used for exhibits, event space, observation platforms and a restaurant. The three unsupported spheres are not open to the public.

See more details on the official Atomium website here:

http://atomium.be/History.aspx

View from the inside. Source:  Georgio Galeotti via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomium#/

Two US Supercomputers are Ranked Fastest in the World

In previous posts on 24 May 2015 and 28 June 2016, I reported on the TOP500 rankings of the world’s supercomputers.

In June 2013, China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho topped this this worldwide ranking with an Rmax Linpack score of 33 petaflops/second and retained the first place position for two years. In June 2016, the new leader was another Chinese supercomputer, the Sunway TaihuLight at the National Supercomputer Center in Wuxi. TaihuLight delivered an Rmax Linpack score of 93 petaflops/second and remained at the top of the worldwide ranking for two years, until it was eclipsed in June 2018 by the US Summit supercomputer, then with an Rmax rating of 122.3 petaflops / second.

In the latest TOP500 ranking, the new leaders are two US supercomputers:  Summit (#1) and Sierra (#2).

Summit supercomputer.  Source: NVIDIA

The IBM Summit improved its past Linpack score to achieve an Rmax of 143.5 petaflops / second in the current ranking.  Summit is located at the Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee.

  • 2,397,824 cores
  • 873 megawatts peak power

Sierra supercomputer. Source:  Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory / Randy Wong

The IBM Sierra also improved its past Linpack score to achieve an Rmax of 94.64 petaflops / second and move into second place, marginally ahead of China’s TaihuLight.  Sierra is located at the DOE Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California.

  • 1,572,480 cores
  • 438 megawatts peak power

The Summit and Sierra supercomputer cores are IBM POWER9 central processing units (CPUs) and NVIDIA V100 graphic processing units (GPUs).   NVIDIA claims that its GPUs are delivering 95% of Summit’s performance. Both supercomputers use a Linux operating system.

China’s Sunway TaihuLight was ranked 3rd, and Tianhe-2A was ranked 4th.  A total of five DOE supercomputers were in the top 10 positions.

You’ll find the complete 52ndedition (November 2018) TOP500 ranking here:

https://www.top500.org/lists/2018/11/

 

2018 Nobel Prize in Physics

On 2 October 2018, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. Arthur Ashkin (US) shares this Nobel Prize with Gérard Mourou (France) and Donna Strickland (Canada) for their “groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics.”

Arthur Ashkin’s award was “for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems.” This is a technique developed by Ashkin in the late 1960s (first published in 1970) using laser beam(s) to create a force trap that can be used to physically hold and move microscopic objects (from atoms and molecules to living cells).  The technique now is widely used in studying a variety of biological systems, with applications such as cell sorting and bio-molecular assay.

You’ll find a detailed briefing entitled, “Optical Tweezers – Working Principles and Applications,” here:

http://www.phys.sinica.edu.tw/TIGP-NANO/Course/2008_Fall/classnote/NBP_Optical%20Tweezers_Wen-Tau%20Juan.pdf

Arthur Ashkin. Source: laserfest.org

Arthur Ashkin is a researcher at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey.  At 96, he the oldest person to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

The award to Mourou and Strickland was “for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.” They developed a technique in the mid-1980s called “chirped pulse amplification” (CPA) that is used to produce very short duration laser pulses of very high intensity.  CPA is applied today in laser micromachining, surgery, medicine, and in fundamental science studies.

You’ll find a brief tutorial entitled, “Chirped-Pulse Amplification Ultrahigh peak power production from compact short-pulse laser systems,” here:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1c96/a800faaa341d9719a6ca3fbb7ccff9ff9419.pdf

  Gérard Mourou. Source: American Physical Society (APS).  Donna Strickland. Source: University of Waterloo

Gérard Mourou is the director of the Laboratoire d’Optique Appliquee at the ENSTA ParisTech (École nationale supérieure de techniques avancées).  He was Donna Strickland’s PhD advisor.

Donna Strickland is an associate professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of Waterloo, Canada (about 90 km west of Toronto).  She is the first female Physics laureate in 55 years. The preceding female Physics laureates were:

  • In 1963, Maria Goeppert-Mayer was recognized for her work on the structure of atomic nuclei (shared with J. Hans D. Jensen and Eugene Wigner).
  • In 1903, Marie Curie was recognized for her pioneering work on nuclear radiation phemomena (shared with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel).

You can read the press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics here:

https://www.nobelprize.org/uploads/2018/10/press-physics2018.pdf

Congratulations to the 2018 Nobel Physics laureates!

Sputnik 1 Boosted Support for Science, Engineering and Mathematics Education, but it Didn’t Last

Sputnik 1 was launched on 4 October 1957 by the Soviet Union and became the first man-made object to be placed into Earth orbit.  See my 4 October 2017 post discussing the 60th anniversary of this event.

The launch of Sputnik 1, and the subsequent launches of Sputnik 2 on 4 October 1957 and Sputnik 3 on 15 May 1958, prompted calls for more technical education in the U.S. One reaction was the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) passed by Congress and signed by President Dwight Eisenhower on 2 September 1958.  A primary goal of NDEA was to help align the nation’s educational systems to better meet the nation’s security needs, particularly in the areas of science, engineering and mathematics, where the U.S. was being challenged by the Soviet Union.

You can read more on the NDEA here:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/National-Defense-Education-Act

It’s ironic that today, more than 60 years after Sputnik 1 was launched, our nation’s educational system is still trying to figure out how to deliver science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, now under the popular banner “STEM”  (or “STEAM”, so the Arts don’t feel left out).

As I discussed in my 13 December 2016 post, “The PISA 2015 Report Provides an Insightful International Comparison of U.S. High School Student Performance,”the U.S. was ranked 40thin math, 25thin science, and 24thin reading among 73 international educational systems.  PISA 2015 provided strong evidence that students in many other nations are better prepared in science and math than their peers in the U.S.  You can read that post here:

https://lynceans.org/all-posts/the-pisa-2015-report-provides-an-insightful-international-comparison-of-u-s-high-school-student-performance/

The National Academies Press (NAP) recently (2018) published two reports of consensus studies concerning the delivery of STEM education and a framework for assessing the status and quality of that education.  The first is entitled, “Indicators for Monitoring Undergraduate STEM Education.”

    Source:  NAP

NAP describes this report as follows:

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals generate a stream of scientific discoveries and technological innovations that fuel job creation and national economic growth. Ensuring a robust supply of these professionals is critical for sustaining growth and creating jobs growth at a time of intense global competition. Undergraduate STEM education prepares the STEM professionals of today and those of tomorrow, while also helping all students develop knowledge and skills they can draw on in a variety of occupations and as individual citizens. However, many capable students intending to major in STEM later switch to another field or drop out of higher education altogether, partly because of documented weaknesses in STEM teaching, learning and student supports. Improving undergraduate STEM education to address these weaknesses is a national imperative.

Many initiatives are now underway to improve the quality of undergraduate STEM teaching and learning. Some focus on the national level, others involve multi-institution collaborations, and others take place on individual campuses. At present, however, policymakers and the public do not know whether these various initiatives are accomplishing their goals and leading to nationwide improvement in undergraduate STEM education.

Indicators for Monitoring Undergraduate STEM Education outlines a framework and a set of indicators that document the status and quality of undergraduate STEM education at the national level over multiple years. It also indicates areas where additional research is needed in order to develop appropriate measures. This publication will be valuable to government agencies that make investments in higher education, institutions of higher education, private funders of higher education programs, and industry stakeholders. It will also be of interest to researchers who study higher education.”

You can download this report here:

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24943/indicators-for-monitoring-undergraduate-stem-education

The second report is entitled, “Graduate STEM Education for the 21stCentury.”

    Source:  NAP

NAP describes this report as follows:

“The U.S. system of graduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has served the nation and its science and engineering enterprise extremely well. Over the course of their education, graduate students become involved in advancing the frontiers of discovery, as well as in making significant contributions to the growth of the U.S. economy, its national security, and the health and well being of its people. However, continuous, dramatic innovations in research methods and technologies, changes in the nature and availability of work, shifts in demographics, and expansions in the scope of occupations needing STEM expertise raise questions about how well the current STEM graduate education system is meeting the full array of 21st century needs. Indeed, recent surveys of employers and graduates and studies of graduate education suggest that many graduate programs do not adequately prepare students to translate their knowledge into impact in multiple careers.

Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century examines the current state of U.S. graduate STEM education. This report explores how the system might best respond to ongoing developments in the conduct of research on evidence-based teaching practices and in the needs and interests of its students and the broader society it seeks to serve. This will be an essential resource for the primary stakeholders in the U.S. STEM enterprise, including federal and state policymakers, public and private funders, institutions of higher education, their administrators and faculty, leaders in business and industry, and the students the system is intended to educate.”

You can download this report here:

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25038/graduate-stem-education-for-the-21st-century

Hopefully, today’s investments in STEM education will yield tangible results that will help strengthen the position of the U.S. among the very broad field of international competitors vying for a piece of, or dominance in, various segments of the modern technology market.

Marine Nuclear Power: 1939 – 2018

In 2015, I compiled the first edition of a resource document to support a presentation I made in August 2015 to The Lyncean Group of San Diego (www.lynceans.org) commemorating the 60thanniversary of the world’s first “underway on nuclear power” by USS Nautilus on 17 January 1955.  That presentation to the Lyncean Group, “60 years of Marine Nuclear Power: 1955 –2015,” was my attempt to tell a complex story, starting from the early origins of the US Navy’s interest in marine nuclear propulsion in 1939, resetting the clock on 17 January 1955 with USS Nautilus’ historic first voyage, and then tracing the development and exploitation of marine nuclear power over the next 60 years in a remarkable variety of military and civilian vessels created by eight nations.

Here’s a quick overview at worldwide marine nuclear in 2018.

Source: two charts by author

In July 2018, I finished a complete update of the resource document and changed the title to, “Marine Nuclear Power: 1939 –2018.”  Due to its present size (over 2,100 pages), the resource document now consists of the following parts, all formatted as slide presentations:

  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2A: United States – Submarines
  • Part 2B: United States – Surface Ships
  • Part 3A: Russia – Submarines
  • Part 3B: Russia – Surface Ships & Non-propulsion Marine Nuclear Applications
  • Part 4: Europe & Canada
  • Part 5: China, India, Japan and Other Nations
  • Part 6: Arctic Operations

The original 2015 resource document and this updated set of documents were compiled from unclassified, open sources in the public domain.

I acknowledge the great amount of work done by others who have published material in print or posted information on the internet pertaining to international marine nuclear propulsion programs, naval and civilian nuclear powered vessels, naval weapons systems, and other marine nuclear applications.  My resource document contains a great deal of graphics from many sources.  Throughout the document, I have identified the sources for these graphics.

You can access all parts of Marine Nuclear Power: 1939 – 2018 here:

Marine Nuclear Power 1939 – 2018_Part 1_Introduction

Marine Nuclear Power 1939 – 2018_Part 2A_USA_submarines

Marine Nuclear Power 1939 – 2018_Part 2B_USA_surface ships

Marine Nuclear Power 1939 – 2018_Part 3A_R1_Russia_submarines

Marine Nuclear Power 1939 – 2018_Part 3B_R1_Russia_surface ships & non-propulsion apps

Marine Nuclear Power 1939 – 2018_Part 4_Europe & Canada

Marine Nuclear Power 1939 – 2018_Part 5_China-India-Japan & Others

Marine Nuclear Power 1939 – 2018_Part 6_Arctic marine nuclear

I hope you find this resource document informative, useful, and different from any other single document on this subject.  Below is an outline to help you navigate through the document.

Outline of Marine Nuclear Power:  1939 – 2018.

Part 1: Introduction

  • Quick look:  Then and now
  • State-of-the-art in 1955
  • Marine nuclear propulsion system basics
  • Timeline
    • Timeline highlights
    • Decade-by-decade
  • Effects of nuclear weapons and missile treaties & conventions on the composition and armament of naval fleets
  • Prospects for 2018 – 2030

Part 2A: United States – Submarines

  • Timeline for development of marine nuclear power in the US
  • US current nuclear vessel fleet
  • US naval nuclear infrastructure
  • Use of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) in US naval reactors
  • US submarine reactors and prototype facilities
  • US Navy nuclear-powered submarines
    • Nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SSN)
      • Submarine-launched torpedoes, anti-submarine missiles & mines
      • Systems to augment submarine operational capabilities
    • Nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBN)
      • Submarine-launched strategic ballistic missiles (SLBMs)
    • Nuclear-powered guided missile submarines (SSGN)
      • Cruise missiles and other tactical guided missiles
    • Nuclear-powered special operations submarines

Part 2B: United States – Surface Ships

  • US naval surface ship reactors & prototype facilities
  • US Navy nuclear-powered surface ships
    • Evolution of the US nuclear-powered surface fleet
    • Nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers (CGN)
      • CGN tactical weapons
    • Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVN)
      • Carrier strike group (CSG) & carrier air wing composition
  • Naval nuclear vessel decommissioning and nuclear waste management
  • US civilian marine nuclear vessels and reactors
    • Operational & planned civilian marine vessels and their reactors
    • Other US civilian marine reactor designs
  • Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) marine applications
  • US marine nuclear power current trends

Part 3A: Russia – Submarines

  • The beginning of the Soviet / Russian marine nuclear power program
  • Russian current nuclear vessel fleet.
  • Russian marine nuclear reactor & fuel-cycle infrastructure
  • Russian nuclear vessel design, construction & life-cycle infrastructure
  • Russian naval nuclear infrastructure
  • Russian nuclear-powered submarines
    • Submarine reactors
    • Nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SSN)
      • Submarine-launched torpedoes & anti-submarine missiles
    • Strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSB & SSBN)
      • Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM)
    • Cruise missile submarines (SSG & SSGN).
      • Cruise missiles
    • Nuclear-powered special operations subs & strategic torpedoes
    • Other special-purpose nuclear-powered subs
    • Examples of un-built nuclear submarine projects

Part 3B: Russia – Surface Ships & Non-propulsion Marine Nuclear Applications

  • Russian nuclear-powered surface ships
    • Surface ship reactors
    • Nuclear-powered icebreakers
    • Nuclear-powered naval surface ships
      • Nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers
      • Nuclear-powered command ship
      • Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
      • Nuclear-powered multi-purpose destroyer
  • Russian non-propulsion marine nuclear applications
    • Small reactors for non-propulsion marine nuclear applications
    • Floating nuclear power plants (FNPP)
    • Transportable reactor units (TRU)
    • Arctic seabed applications for marine nuclear power
    • Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG)
  • Marine nuclear decommissioning and environmental cleanup
  • Russian marine nuclear power current trends

Part 4: Europe & Canada

  • Nations that operate or have operated nuclear vessels
    • United Kingdom
      • The beginning of the UK marine nuclear power program
      • UK current nuclear vessel fleet
      • UK naval nuclear infrastructure
      • UK naval nuclear reactors
      • UK Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarines
        • Nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SSN)
          • Submarine-launched tactical weapons
        • Nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBN)
          • Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM)
      • UK disposition of decommissioned nuclear submarines
      • UK nuclear surface ship and marine reactor concepts
      • UK marine nuclear power current trends
    • France
      • The beginning of the French marine nuclear power program
      • French current nuclear vessel fleet
      • French naval nuclear infrastructure
      • French naval nuclear reactors
      • French naval nuclear vessels
        • Nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarines (SNLE)
          • Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (MSBS)
        • Nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SNA)
          • Submarine-launched tactical weapons
        • Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
      • French disposition of decommissioned nuclear submarines
      • French non-propulsion marine reactor applications
      • French marine nuclear power current trends
    • Germany
  • Other nations with an interest in marine nuclear power technology
    • Italy
    • Sweden
    • Netherlands
    • Canada

Part 5: China, India, Japan and Other Nations

  • Nations that have operated nuclear vessels
    • China
      • The beginning of China’s marine nuclear power program
      • China’s current nuclear vessel fleet
      • China’s naval nuclear infrastructure
      • China’s nuclear vessels
        • Nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SSNs)
          • Submarine-launched tactical weapons
        • Nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile subs (SSBNs)
          • Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs)
        • Floating nuclear power stations
        • Nuclear-powered surface ships
      • China’s decommissioned nuclear submarine status
      • China’s marine nuclear power current trends
    • India
      • The beginning of India’s marine nuclear power program
      • India’s current nuclear vessel fleet
      • India’s naval nuclear infrastructure
      • India’s nuclear-powered submarines
        • Nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SSNs)
          • Submarine-launched tactical weapons
        • Nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs)
          • Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM).
      • India’s marine nuclear power current trends
    • Japan
  • Other nations with an interest in marine nuclear power technology
    • Brazil
    • North Korea
    • Pakistan
    • Iran
    • Israel
    • Australia

Part 6: Arctic Operations

  • Basic orientation to the Arctic region
    • Arctic boundary
    • Northern Sea Route
    • Northwest Passage
    • Arctic Territorial Claims
  • Dream of the Arctic submarine
  • US nuclear marine Arctic operations
  • UK nuclear marine Arctic operations
  • Canada nuclear marine operations
  • Russian nuclear marine Arctic operations
    • Russian non-propulsion marine nuclear Arctic applications
  • Current trends in nuclear marine Arctic operations

 

Visitors From Outside our Solar System May be More Common Than We Expected

No!  This is not a story about UFOs.  On 19 October 2017, astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 (Pan-STARRS1)in Hawaii made the first detection of an interstellar object passing through our solar system.  PanSTARRS 1 uses a Moving Object Processing System (MOPS) that is designed to detect fast moving objects in the vicinity of the Earth as well as those moving as slowly as the fastest proper motion stars.  The original goal of  the PanSTARRS project, which began observations in 2007, was to detect objects 100 times fainter than previous sky surveys, including 99% of the asteroids 300 meters (1,309 feet) or larger that come near Earth’s orbit.

NASA reported: “Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, was first to identify the moving object and submit it to the Minor Planet Center. Weryk subsequently searched the Pan-STARRS image archive and found it also was in images taken the previous night, but was not initially identified by the moving object processing.”

Pan-STARRS1 on Haleakala, Hawaii.  Source: https://panstarrs.stsci.edu

You’ll find a description of PanSTARRS 1 here;

https://panstarrs.stsci.edu/attachments/metcalfe_nam2015.pdf

The PanSTARRS1 MOPS is described in more detail here.

https://amostech.com/TechnicalPapers/2009/Astronomy/Denneau.pdf

The interstellar object discovered by Pan-STARRS1 was designated Asteroid  1I/2017 U1, and later was named Oumuamua, which means “a messenger from afar arriving first” in Hawaiian.  The red-hued object has a highly-elongated  shape (cigar-shaped) with a length of about a quarter mile (1,320 feet, 402 meters) and a diameter of  about 120 feet (40 meters).  Oumuamua was unlike any asteroid or comet previously observed in our solar system.

Artist’s concept of  Oumuamua. Source: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser

Before its detection by PanSTARRS1, Oumuamua had entered our solar system and made its closest approach to the Sun on 19 September 2017, reaching a speed of about 196,000 mph (315,400 km/h).  From analysis of its trajectory, astronomers determined that Oumuamua most likely came from outside our solar system.  On its outbound trajectory, it was moving fast enough to escape the Sun’s gravitational field and break free of the solar system, never to return.

Oumuamua’s trajectory through our solar system. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

You’ll find a NASA/JPL-Caltech animation of Oumuamua’s trajectory here:

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/small-asteroid-or-comet-visits-from-beyond-the-solar-system

The European Space Agency (ESA) reported the following:

  • Oumuamua is dense, possibly rocky or with high metal content, lacks significant amounts of water or ice, and that its surface is now dark and reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over millions of years….it is completely inert, without the faintest hint of dust around it.
  • Preliminary orbital calculations suggested that the object had come from the approximate direction of the bright star Vega, in the northern constellation of Lyra. However, even travelling at a breakneck speed of about 95,000 kilometers/hour (59,000 mph), it took so long for the interstellar object to make the journey to our Solar System that Vega was not near that position when the asteroid was there about 300,000 years ago. Oumuamua may well have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with the Solar System.

You can read the ESA report here:

https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1737/

The Breakthrough Listen initiative reported that the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia detected no evidence of artificial signals emanating from the object.

To the disappointment of science fiction fans, all observations were consistent with Oumuamua being a natural object, and not a derelict spaceship, like the Battlestar Galactica.

Source: https://abagond.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/oumuamua/

David  Clery’s 21 May 2018 article, “This asteroid came from another solar system—and it’s here to stay,” describes the 2014 discovery and recent analysis of an object in our solar that is in a retrograde, heliocentric orbit at approximately the distance of Jupiter from the Sun (483.8 million miles / 778.6 million km).  The asteroid, identified as 2015 BZ509, is traveling around our solar system in the opposite directions of almost everything else in an orbit with unusual elongation and inclination to the plane of the solar system.  The recent analysis indicates that this is a stable orbit, and not a fly-by trajectory through our solar system like the brief visit of Oumuamua.

You can read David Clery’s article on the Science website here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/05/asteroid-came-another-solar-system-and-it-s-here-stay?utm_campaign=news_daily_2018-05-21&et_rid=215579562&et_cid=2065701

The original paper by F. Namouni and M H M Morais, “An interstellar origin for Jupiter’s retrograde co-orbital asteroid,”was published on 21 May 2018 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.  The paper describes the analysis of the orbital parameters that that led to the conclusion the asteroid 2015 BZ509 was in a stable orbit.  The authors reported:

“Asteroid (514107) 2015 BZ509 was discovered recently in Jupiter’s co-orbital region with a retrograde motion around the Sun. The known chaotic dynamics of the outer Solar system have so far precluded the identification of its origin. Here, we perform a high-resolution statistical search for stable orbits and show that asteroid (514107) 2015 BZ509 has been in its current orbital state since the formation of the Solar system. This result indicates that (514107) 2015 BZ509 was captured from the interstellar medium 4.5 billion years in the past as planet formation models cannot produce such a primordial large-inclination orbit with the planets on nearly coplanar orbits interacting with a coplanar debris disc that must produce the low-inclination small-body reservoirs of the Solar system such as the asteroid and Kuiper belts. This result also implies that more extrasolar asteroids are currently present in the Solar system on nearly polar orbits.”

You can read the full paper here.

https://academic.oup.com/mnrasl/article/477/1/L117/4996014

Source: Screenshot from animation of 2015 BZ509 orbit created by the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory

You can view a short animation created by the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory to illustrate the dynamics of the unusual retrograde orbit of 2015 BZ509 here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_QbYX4jTrI

It’s an intriguing prospect that there are more extrasolar objects in stable orbits around our Sun.  Could one of them be the elusive Planet 9?  For an update on the search for Planet 9, see the 21 May 2018 article by Elizabeth Howell, “Weird Space Rock Provides More Evidence for Mysterious ‘Planet Nine’,” which is on the Space.com website at the following link:

https://www.space.com/40642-space-rock-generates-planet-nine-excitement.html

The potential orbit of Planet 9, illustrated with the existing orbit of several trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs).Source: R. Hurt/JPL-Caltech

You Need to Know About Russia’s Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research (GUGI)

The Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research, also known as GUGI and Military Unit 40056, is an organizational structure within the Russian Ministry  of Defense that is separate from the Russian Navy.  The Head of GUGI is Vice-Admiral Aleksei Burilichev, Hero of Russia.

Source. Adapted from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, http://eng.mil.ru/en/index.htm

Vice-Admiral Aleksei Burilichev at the commissioning of GUGI oceanographic research vessel Yantar. Source: http://eng.mil.ru/

GUGI is responsible for fielding specialized submarines, oceanographic research ships, undersea drones and autonomous vehicles, sensor systems, and other undersea systems.   Today, GUGI operates the world’s largest fleet of covert manned deep-sea vessels. In mid-2018, that fleet consisted of eight very specialized nuclear-powered submarines.

There are six nuclear-powered, deep-diving, small submarines (“nuclear deep-sea stations”), each of which is capable of working at great depth (thousands of meters) for long periods of time.  These subs are believed to have diver lockout facilities to deploy divers at shallower depths.

  • One Project 1851 / 18510 Nelma (aka X-Ray) sub delivered in 1986; Length: 44 m (144.4 ft.); displacement about 529 tons submerged. This is the first and smallest of the Russian special operations nuclear-powered submarines.
  • Two Project 18511 Halibut (aka Paltus) subs delivered between 1994 – 95; Length: 55 m (180.4 ft.); displacement about 730 tons submerged.
  • Three Project 1910 Kashalot (aka Uniform) subs delivered between 1986 – 1991, but only two are operational in 2018; Length: 69 m (226.4 ft.); displacement about 1,580 tons submerged.
  • One Project 09851 Losharik (aka NORSUB-5) sub delivered in about 2003; Length: 74 m (242.8 ft.); displacement about 2,100 tons submerged.

The trend clearly is toward larger, and certainly more capable deep diving special operations submarines.  The larger subs have a crew complement of 25 – 35.

Kashalot notional cross-section diagram. Source: adapted from militaryrussia.ru

Kashalot notional diagram showing deployed positioning thrusters, landing legs and tools for working on the bottom. Source: http://nvs.rpf.ru/nvs/forum

The Russian small special operations subs may have been created in response to the U.S. Navy’s NR-1 small, deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine, which entered service in 1969.  NR-1 had a length of 45 meters (147.7 ft.) and a displacement of about 400 tons submerged, making it roughly comparable to the Project 1851 / 18510 Nelma . NR-1 was retired in 2008, leaving the U.S. with no counterpart to the Russian fleet of small, nuclear-powered special operations subs.

GUGI operates two nuclear-powered “motherships” (PLA carriers) that can transport one of the smaller nuclear deep-sea stations to a distant site and provide support throughout the mission. The current two motherships started life as Delta III and Delta IV strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).  The original SSBN missile tubes were removed and the hulls were lengthened to create large midship special mission compartments with a docking facility on the bottom of the hull for one of the small, deep-diving submarines.  These motherships probably have a test depth of about 250 to 300 meters (820 to 984 feet).  They are believed to have diver lockout facilities for deploying divers.

General arrangement of a Russian mothership carrying a small special operations submarine.  Source:  http://gentleseas.blogspot.com/2015/08/russias-own-jimmy-carter-special-ops.html

Delta-IV mothership carrying Losharik.  Source: GlobalSecurity.org

The motherships also are believed capable of deploying and retrieving a variety of  autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), including the relatively large Harpsichord: Length: 6.5 m (21.3 ft.); Diameter 1 m (3.2 ft.); Weight: 3,700 kg (8,157 pounds).

Harpsichord-2R-PM. Source: http://vpk-news.ru/articles/30962

The following graphic shows a mothership carrying a small special operations sub  while operating with a Harpsichord AUV.

                       Source: https://russianmilitaryanalysis.wordpress.com/tag/9m730/

These nuclear submarines are operated by the 29th Special Submarine Squadron, which is based along with other GUGI vessels at Olenya Bay, in the Kola Peninsula on the coast of the Barents Sea.

Olenya Bay is near Murmansk.  Source: Google Maps

Russian naval facilities near Murmansk.  Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org

Mothership BS-136 Orenburg at Oleyna Bay.  Source: Source: http://www.air-defense.net/

The GUGI fleet provides deep ocean and Arctic operating capabilities that greatly exceed those of any other nation.  Potential missions include:

  • Conducting subsea surveys, mapping and sampling (i.e., to help validate Russia’s extended continental shelf claims in the Arctic; to map potential future targets such as seafloor cables)
  • Placing and/or retrieving items on the sea floor (i.e., retrieving military hardware, placing subsea power sources, power distribution systems and sonar arrays)
  • Maintaining military subsea equipment and systems
  • Conducting covert surveillance
  • Developing an operational capability to deploy the Poseidon strategic nuclear torpedo.
  • In time of war, attacking the subsea infrastructure of other nations in the open ocean or in the Arctic (i.e., cutting subsea internet cables, power cables or oil / gas pipelines)

Analysts at the firm Policy Exchange reported that the world’s undersea cable network comprises about 213 independent cable systems and 545,018 miles (877,121 km) of fiber-optic cable.  These undersea cable networks carry an estimated 97% of global communications and $10 trillion in daily financial transactions are transmitted by cables under the ocean.

Since about 2015, NATO has observed Russian vessels stepping up activities around undersea data cables in the North Atlantic. None are known to have been tapped or cut.  Selective attacks on this cable infrastructure could electronically isolate and severely damage the economy of individual countries or regions.  You’ll find a more detailed assessment on this matter in the 15 December 2017 BBC article, “Russia a ‘risk’ to undersea cables, Defence chief warns.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42362500

GUGI also is responsible for the development of the Poseidon (formerly known as Status-6 / Kanyon) strategic nuclear torpedo and the associated “carrier” submarines.

Poseidon, which was first revealed on Russian TV in November 2015,  is a large, nuclear-powered, autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that functionally is a giant, long-range torpedo.

 The Russian TV “reveal” of the Oceanic Multipurpose System Status-6 November 2015. Source: https://russianmilitaryanalysis.wordpress.com/tag/9m730/

It is capable of delivering a very large nuclear warhead (perhaps up to 100 MT) underwater to the immediate proximity of an enemy’s key economic and military facilities in coastal areas.  It is a weapon of unprecedented destructive power and it is not subject to any existing nuclear arms limitation treaties. However, its development would give Russia leverage in future nuclear arms limitation talks.

The immense physical size of the Poseidon strategic nuclear torpedo is evident in the size comparison chart below.

Source: http://www.hisutton.com/

The Bulava is the Russian submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) carried on Russia’s modern Borei-class SSBNs.  The UGST torpedo is representative of a typical torpedo launched from a 533 mm (21 inch) torpedo tube, which is found on the majority of submarines in the world.  An experimental submarine, the B-90 Sarov, appears to be the current testbed for the Poseidon strategic torpedo.  Russia is building other special submarines to carry several Poseidon strategic torpedoes.  One is believed to be the giant, highly modified Oscar II submarine KC-139 Belogrod, which also will serve as a mothership for a small, special operations nuclear sub.  The other is the smaller Project 09851 submarine Khabarovsk, which appears to be purpose-built for carrying the Poseidon.

For more information on GUGI, Russian special operations submarines and other covert underwater projects, refer to the Covert Shores website created by naval analyst H. I. Sutton, which you’ll find at the following link:

http://www.hisutton.com/Analysis%20-%20Russian%20Status-6%20aka%20KANYON%20nuclear%20deterrence%20and%20Pr%2009851%20submarine.html

 

 

San Diego Zoo Global Takes a Major Step in Their Program to Save the Northern White Rhino

On 17 May 2018, San Diego Zoo Global announced that their southern white rhino Victoria is pregnant.  The event was reported by Bradley Fikes, bio-technology reporter at the San Diego Union-Tribune and former Lyncean Group presenter (Talk #103, 20 April 2016).  He noted:

“The developing baby is also a southern white rhino, conceived on March 22 through artificial insemination. The pregnancy is a dress rehearsal for the ultimate goal of creating more northern white rhinos, grown from embryos made from stem cells.”

This is the first time that San Diego Zoo Global’s Rhino Rescue Center has been successful in initiating a southern white rhino pregnancy through artificial insemination.

You can read Bradley Fikes complete article here:

http://enewspaper.sandiegouniontribune.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=ea65284a-3097-45d6-ac42-481b55fab2e2

Southern white rhino Victoria.  Photo source: Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park via San Diego Union Tribune

Northern white rhino genetic material maintained in San Diego Zoo Global’s “Frozen Zoo” is an important resource for attempting to re-build this nearly extinct species.   You may recall Dr. Barbara Durrant’s  21 June 2017 presentation to the Lyncean Group, “Endangered Species Rescue: How far should we go?”   In this presentation, Dr. Durrant explained the complex process being developed at San Diego Zoo Global to use northern white rhino tissue to create artificial embryonic stem cells that can be matured into northern white rhino egg and sperm cells. A northern white rhino embryo is created through in-vitro fertilization and then implanted into a southern white rhino surrogate mother.  If the pregnancy is successful, this process will yield a northern white rhino calf after a 16 – 18 month gestation period.

You’ll find the slides from Dr. Durrant’s  presentation (Talk #112) here:

https://lynceans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Frozen-Zoo-6-21-17-compressed.pdf

The process for developing the northern white rhino embryonic stem cells continues to improve. You can read a pre-print of the recent paper, ”Four new induced pluripotent stem cell lines produced from northern white rhinoceros with non-integrating reprogramming factors,” here.

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/10/13/202499.full.pdf+html

The authors, from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, reported creating stem cell lines for four more individual northern white rhinos.

You’ll find more information on San Diego Zoo Global’s wildlife conservation programs at here:

http://endextinction.org/victoria