Part II : 1950 -1957

4. Hydrogen Technology from Thermonuclear Research




[71] Under the stimulus of hydrogen bomb development, liquid hydrogen technology advanced rapidly in the first part of the 1950s. Hydrogen liquefier capacity had risen from the 80 liters per hour of the Aerojet plant in 1949 to the 350 liters per hour of the NBS-AEC Cryogenic Engineering Laboratory. The new national laboratory and the increased number of contractors who entered cryogenic engineering brought many new developments. Dewars were built that allowed as much as 6000 liters of liquid hydrogen to be stored indefinitely or transported cross-country. Applications of this cryogenic technology began to increase. Among them was the use of liquid hydrogen as a working fluid for nuclear rockets that began in 1955. The use of hydrogen in a nuclear rocket is not as a fuel, however; the energy comes from the reactor, and hydrogen is the ideal working fluid because of its low molecular weight. For this reason, the nuclear rocket development of the 1950s will not be discussed further except as it relates to technology used in the application of liquid hydrogen as a fuel.26