Description: A human outpost on Mars requires plentiful power to assure survival of the astronauts. Anywhere from 50 to 500 kW of electric power (kWe) will be needed, depending on the number of astronauts, level of scientific activity, and life- cycle closure desired. This paper describes a 250-kWe power system based on a gas-cooled nuclear reactor with a recuperated closed Brayton cycle conversion system. The design draws upon the extensive data and engineering experience developed under the various high-temperature gas cooled reactor programs and under the SP-100 program. The reactor core is similar in power and size to the research reactors found on numerous university campuses. The fuel is uranium nitide clad in Nb 1 %Zr, which has been extensively tested under the SP-I 00 program The fiel rods are arranged in a hexagonal array within a BeO block. The BeO softens the spectrum, allowing better use of the fbel and stabilizing the geometty against deformation during impact or other loadings. The system has a negative temperature feedback coefficient so that the power level will automatically follow a variable load without the need for continuous adjustment of control elements. Waste heat is removed by an air-cooled heat exchanger using cold Martian air. The amount of radioactivity in the reactor at launch is very small (less than a Curie, and about equal to a truckload of uranium ore). The system will need to be engineered so that criticality cannot occur for any launch accident. This system is also adaptable for electric propulsion or life-support during transit to and from Mars.
Date: November 9, 1998
Creator: Harms, G.A.; Lenard, R.X.; Lipinski, R.J. & Wright, S.A.
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