Toward the Last Frontier: A Strategy for the Evolutionary Development of Space Nuclear Power Systems 929444

A number of exciting mission opportunities are being considered for the 21st century, including advanced robotic science missions to the outer planets and beyond, human exploration of the Moon and Mars, and advanced space transportation systems. All of these missions will require some form of nuclear power; however, it is clear that current budgetary constraints preclude developing many different types of space nuclear power systems. This paper reviews the specific civil space missions which have been identified, the power levels and lifetimes required, and the technologies available. From this an evolutionary space nuclear power program is developed which builds upon the experience of radioisotope thermoelectric generators, dynamic isotope power systems, and space nuclear reactors. It is strongly suggested that not only does this approach make technical and budgetary sense but that it is consistent with the normal development of new technologies.


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