Taking advantage of the knowledge acquired as scientists designed, built, and tested Project Rover research reactors, NERVA scientists and engineers worked to develop practical rocket engines that could survive the shock and vibration of a space launch. Nuclear rocket engine designs included a moderator that used water to slow down fast-moving neutrons.

Basically, it’s a small nuclear reactor atop a space rocket. The exchanger was a tube within a tube. Nuclear Thermal Propulsion: Game Changing Technology for Deep Space Exploration This improved the efficiency of the reactor fission.

Nuclear vs. Chemical vs. Electric A major advantage of NTP engines is that they can run much longer than chemical rocket engines, such as the Space Shuttle main engines or the Merlin engines … Rockets and Missiles types, structure, uses, advantages, disadvantages & How rockets work. The most significant advantage of nuclear thermal propulsion is that nuclear reactions generate considerably more energy than chemical reactions on a per molecule basis. A heat exchanger cooled the moderator by transferring the heat from the moderator’s water to the cryogenic liquid hydrogen. The nuclear rocket has a lifting force more than twice that of the traditional chemical rocket. The reactor heats up a propellant—hydrogen, for example—that accelerates through a nozzle, pushing the satellite in … This translates to a higher specific impulse (Isp), which is essentially a measure of the efficiency of rocket engine.

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