Hyperthermal Environments Simulator for Nuclear Rocket Engine Development

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R. J. Litchford; J. P. Foote; W. B. Clifton; R. R. Hickman; T.-S. Wang; C. C. Dobson (2011), JBIS, 64, 29-37

Refcode: 2011.64.29
Keywords: Nuclear Rocket Engine, Reactor Environments, Non-Nuclear Testing, Fissile Fuel Development

An arc-heater driven hyperthermal convective environments simulator was recently developed and commissioned for long duration hot hydrogen exposure of nuclear thermal rocket materials. This newly established non-nuclear testing capability uses a high-power, multi-gas, wall-stabilised constricted arc-heater to produce high-temperature pressurised hydrogen flows representative of nuclear reactor core environments, excepting radiation effects, and is intended to serve as a low-cost facility for supporting non-nuclear developmental testing of high-temperature fissile fuels and structural materials. The resulting reactor environments simulator represents a valuable addition to the available inventory of non-nuclear test facilities and is uniquely capable of investigating and characterising candidate fuel/structural materials, improving associated processing/ fabrication techniques, and simulating reactor thermal hydraulics. This paper summarizes facility design and engineering development efforts and reports baseline operational characteristics as determined from a series of performance mapping and long duration capability demonstration tests. Potential follow-on developmental strategies are also suggested in view of the technical and policy challenges ahead.

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