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Mars Workshop @ EPFL Abstracts
Nuclear Technologies for Space Exploration: an overview on nuclear thermal propulsion, radioisotope power generators and fission surface power Carlos O. Maidana (maidana@physics.isu.edu – maidanac@gmail.com) (1) (2) (3) 1) Idaho State University, Depart. of Mechanical Engineering, Pocatello, ID 83209-8060, USA 2) American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nuclear and Future Flight Propulsion Technical Committee, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 500, Reston, VA 20191, USA 3) Mars Society Switzerland, Avenue de la Gare 51, 2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Nuclear power sources have enabled or enhanced some of the most challenging and exciting space missions ever conducted. Yet, the future of nuclear technology for space exploration promises even more remarkable journeys and more amazing discoveries. Space radioisotope power systems use radioisotope decay to generate heat and electricity for space missions. For the last fifty years, radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) have provided safe, reliable electric power for space missions where solar power is not feasible. The new advanced sterling radioisotope generators (ASRGs), currently under design, are sought to do an even more efficient job on heat and electricity generation for future space missions. But future space missions will need increased power for propulsion and for surface power applications to support both robotic and human space exploration missions. Nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) is the most technically mature, advanced propulsion system that can enable a rapid access to different regions of interest throughout the solar system. The latter is possible by its ability to provide a step increase above what is feasible using a traditional chemical rocket system. Nuclear fission-based power systems are the best suited power sources for surface missions requiring high power in difficult environments where sunlight is limited and reliability is paramount. An overlook of such technologies and activities will be presented. References 1) Bennett, G.L., “Space Nuclear power: Opening the Final Frontier”, AIAA paper 2006-4191, presented at the 4th Int. Energy Conversion Engin. Conf., San Diego, CA, 26-29 June 2006. 2) Houts, M. et al., “Fission Surface Power System Technology for NASA Exploration Missions”, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and U.S. Department of Energy internal hand-out. 3) Maidana, C. O. et al., “Design of an Annular Linear Induction Pump for Nuclear Space Applications”, Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space Exploration 2011 (NETS2011). 4) Werner, J. et al., “An Overview of Facilities and Capabilities to Support the Development of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion”, Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space Exploration 2011 (NETS2011)
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Carlos Maidana