10 KWe Dual-Mode Space Nuclear Power System for Military and Scientific Applications
A 10 KWe dual-mode space power system concept has been identified which is based on INEL's Small Externally-fueled Heat Pipe Thermionic Reactor (SEHPTR) concept. This power system will enhance user capabilities by providing reliable electric power and by providing two propulsion systems; electric power for an arc-jet electric propulsion system and direct thrust by heating hydrogen propellant inside the reactor. The low thrust electric thrusters allow efficient station keeping and long-term maneuvering. The direct thrust capability can provide tens of pounds of thrust at a specific impulse of around 730 seconds for maneuvers that must be performed more rapidly. The direct thrust allows the nuclear power system to move a payload from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) in less than one month using approximately half the propellant of a cryogenic chemical stage.