The SP-100 reactor will operate at temperatures up to 1500K in high vacuum. Development of bearing coatings is necessary to avoid self welding and/or galling of moving components. No experience base exists for these conditions-the early SNAP (Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power) program requirements were over 400K lower with shorter lifetime requirements.
To address the SP-100 needs, a tribology development program has been established at GE to investigate candidate coating materials. Materials were selected based on their high thermodynamic stability, high melting point, compatibility with the substrate, and coefficients of thermal expansion similar to niobium-1% zirconium - the candidate structural material for SP-100. An additional requirement was that the deposition processes should be commercially available to coat large components. This paper presents the details regarding the SP-100 Tribology Development Program including background information, specific bearing requirements, basis for coating material selection, testing methods and the initial results covering the early years of this program.