Nuclear power supplies: their potential and the practical problems to their achievement for space missions

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The anticipated growth of the space station power requirement provides a good example of the problem the space nuclear power supply developers have to contend with: should a reactor power supply be developed that attempts to be all things to all missions, i.e., is highly flexible in its ability to meet a wide variety of missions, or should the development of a reactor system await a specific mission definition and be customized to this mission. This leads, of course, to a chicken-and-egg situation. For power requirements of several hundreds of kilowatts or more, no nuclear power source exists or is ... continued below

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Pages: 10

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Colston, B.W. & Brehm, R.L. January 1, 1985.

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The anticipated growth of the space station power requirement provides a good example of the problem the space nuclear power supply developers have to contend with: should a reactor power supply be developed that attempts to be all things to all missions, i.e., is highly flexible in its ability to meet a wide variety of missions, or should the development of a reactor system await a specific mission definition and be customized to this mission. This leads, of course, to a chicken-and-egg situation. For power requirements of several hundreds of kilowatts or more, no nuclear power source exists or is even far enough along in the definition stage (much less the development stage) for NASA to reasonably assume probable availability within the next 10 years. The real problem of space nuclear power is this ''chicken-and-egg'' syndrome: DOE will not develop a space reactor system for NASA without a firm mission, and NASA will not specify a firm mission requiring a space reactor because such a system doesn't exist and is perceived not to be developable within the time frame of the mission. The problem is how to break this cycle. The SP-100 program has taken an important first step to breaking this cycle, but this program is much more design-specific than what is required to achieve a broad technology base and latitude in achievable power level. In contrast to the SP-100 approach, a wider perspective is required: the development of the appropriate technologies for power levels can be broken into ranges, say, from 100 kWe to 1000 kWe, and from 1000 kWe to 10,000 kWe.

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Pages: 10

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NTIS, PC A02/MF A01.

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  • Manned mars mission workshop, Huntsville, AL, USA, 10 Jun 1985

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  • Other: DE85015719
  • Report No.: LA-UR-85-2433
  • Report No.: CONF-8506149-4
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-36
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 5278996
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1069629

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

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  • January 1, 1985

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  • Feb. 4, 2018, 10:51 a.m.

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  • June 4, 2018, 1:39 p.m.

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Colston, B.W. & Brehm, R.L. Nuclear power supplies: their potential and the practical problems to their achievement for space missions, article, January 1, 1985; New Mexico. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1069629/: accessed June 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.