Design of a Low Specific Mass 10 kWe Nuclear Reactor for Space Propulsion

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N. Hoifeldt et al. (2010), JBIS, 63, pp.330-335

Refcode: 2010.63.330
Keywords: Space Propulsion, Stirling Engine, Nuclear Reactor Design, Heat Pipe, Space Radiator Design, RTG

With an increasing demand for long-duration and energy intensive missions in space, alternatives to radioisotope power systems are being explored. Nuclear fission reactors can provide sufficient power while maintaining a low specific mass comparable to radioisotope power systems. One of the projects focused on designing a small scale nuclear reactor with a low specific mass for use on a fourteen year unmanned mission. The results show a craft can be made that requires no internal pumps or electrical input to run the power conversion system. The power conversion system selected consisted of free-piston Stirling engines. The core design is based upon a heat pipe thermal transport system using a U10Mo Core, while a liquid bath controls thermal conditions around the power conversion systems. The radiators are also designed with carbon composite materials. Results of this paper show a reduction in specific mass of the system.

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