DIPS Organic Rankine Cycle Heat Rejection System 871418

The increasing need for higher electrical power levels for military and scientific space purposes has spurred development of energy conversion systems with higher efficiencies than the traditional solar array. Numerous nuclear options are currently under development. These fuels eliminate the need for large deployable solar arrays or concentrators, allow unrestricted pointing and maneuvering, and are inherently less susceptible to natural and threat environments; they are the only viable energy source for outer planetary exploration. Fission reactors are the most desirable nuclear source for electric power levels above 10 kW. Radioisotope sources have been used in conjunction with thermoelectrics up to 1 kWe for planetary exploration. However, for radioisotope systems in the 1 to 10 kWe range, a much higher conversion efficiency is required. For over 15 years, NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) have been developing closed cycle turbo-alternator (dynamic) power conversion systems for space use. The Air Force and DOE are jointly developing such a system under the Dynamic Isotope Power System (DIPS) program.
Two closed dynamic cycles are being evaluated for use as part of the DIPS system. They are the Closed Brayton Cycle (CBC) which uses an inert (single phase) gas as the working fluid. The other system is the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) which utilizes the phase change properties of the working fluid. Each has a significantly different effect on the design of a radiative heat rejection system, primarily because of the temperature variation of the CBC single phase heat rejection versus the nearly constant temperature two-phase (condensing) ORC heat rejection. The heat rejection system plays an important role, since the power conversion efficiency is strongly dependent on the heat rejection temperature. The lower the rejection temperature, the higher the efficiency. However, the radiator area requirement increases as the rejection temperature is reduced. On a weight optimization basis both systems are comparable, however, the ORC system requires more radiator area for the same cycle efficiency. With the design requirement that the radiator be mounted around the circumference of the vehicle, available area is limited. Therefore, the heat rejection system design may not be a clear-cut weight optimization but rather a matter of area reduction at minimum penalty to efficiency and weight.
The paper presents the results of an optimization study performed on the heat rejection system for a space based ORC power system using an isotope heat source. The radiator sizing depends on the heat rejection temperature, radiator configuration, and radiator properties such as the fin effectiveness, emissivity, and absorptivity. The optimization analysis to evaluate the effect of each of these parameters on the system weight and area is presented.


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