Description: A concept study was undertaken to evaluate potential multi-megawatt power sources for nuclear electric propulsion. The nominal electric power requirement was set at 15 MWe with an assumed mission profile of 120 days at full power, 60 days in hot standby, and another 120 days of full power, repeated several times for 7 years of service. Two configurations examined were (1) a gas-cooled reactor based on the NERVA Derivative design, operating a closed cycle Brayton power conversion system; and (2) a molten metal-cooled reactor based on SP-100 technology, driving a boiling potassium Rankine power conversion system. This study considered the relative merits of these two systems, seeking to optimize the specific mass. Conclusions were that either concept appeared capable of approaching the specific mass goal of 3-5 kg/kWe estimated to be needed for this class of mission, though neither could be realized without substantial development in reactor fuels technology, thermal radiator mass efficiency, and power conversion and distribution electronics systems capable of operating at high temperatures. The gas-Brayton systems showed an apparent specific mass advantage (3.53 vs 6.43 kg/kWe for the baseline cases) under the set of assumptions used, but reconciling differences in conservatism in the design algorithms used would make results much more comparable. Brayton systems eliminate the need to deal with two-phase working fluid flows in the microgravity environment of space.
Date: February 1, 2002
Creator: Longhurst, Glen Reed; Schnitzler, Bruce Gordon & Parks, Benjamin Travis
Item Type: Refine your search to only Article
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department