A Small Fission Power System for NASA Planetary Science Missions

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L. Mason; J. Casani; J. Elliott; J.-P. Fleurial; D. Macpherson; B. Nesmith; M. Houts; R. Bechtel; J. Werner; R. Kapernick; D. Poston; L. Qualls; R. Lipinski; R. Radel; S. Bailey; A. Weitzberg (2011), JBIS, 64, 76-87

Refcode: 2011.64.76
Keywords: Space Power, Fission Power Systems, Space Reactor, Thermoelectric

In March 2010, the Decadal Survey Giant Planets Panel (GPP) requested a short-turnaround study to evaluate the feasibility of a small Fission Power System (FPS) for future unspecified National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) science missions. FPS technology was considered a potential option for power levels that might not be achievable with radioisotope power systems. A study plan was generated and a joint NASA and Department of Energy (DOE) study team was formed. The team developed a set of notional requirements that included 1-kW electrical output, 15-year design life, and 2020 launch availability. After completing a short round of concept screening studies, the team selected a single concept for concentrated study and analysis. The selected concept is a solid block uranium-molybdenum reactor core with heat pipe cooling and distributed thermoelectric power converters directly coupled to aluminum radiator fins. This paper presents the preliminary configuration, mass summary, and proposed development program.

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