An Integral Nuclear Power and Propulsion System Concept
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.