An Integral Nuclear Power and Propulsion System Concept 929345
An integral space power concept provides both the electrical power and propulsion from a common heat source and offers superior performance capabilities over conventional orbital insertion using chemical propulsion systems. This paper describes a hybrid (bimodal) system concept based on a proven, inherently safe solid fuel form for the high temperature reactor core operation and rugged planar thermionic energy converter for long-life steady state electric power production combined with NERVA-based rocket technology for propulsion. The integral system is capable of long-life power operation and multiple propulsion operations. At an optimal thrust level, the integral system can maintain the minimal delta-V requirement while minimizing the orbital transfer time. A trade study comparing the overall benefits in placing large payloads to GEO with the nuclear electric propulsion option shows superiority of nuclear thermal propulsion. The resulting savings in orbital transfer time and the substantial reduction of overall lift requirement enables the use of low-cost launchers for several near-term military satellite missions.