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Direct Energy Conversion for Nuclear Propulsion at Low Specific MassThe project will continue the FY13 JSC IR&D (October-2012 to September-2013) effort in Travelling Wave Direct Energy Conversion (TWDEC) in order to demonstrate its potential as the core of a high potential, game-changing, in-space propulsion technology. The TWDEC concept converts particle beam energy into radio frequency (RF) alternating current electrical power, such as can be used to heat the propellant in a plasma thruster. In a more advanced concept (explored in the Phase 1 NIAC project), the TWDEC could also be utilized to condition the particle beam such that it may transfer directed kinetic energy to a target propellant plasma for the purpose of increasing thrust and optimizing the specific impulse. The overall scope of the FY13 first-year effort was to build on both the 2012 Phase 1 NIAC research and the analysis and test results produced by Japanese researchers over the past twenty years to assess the potential for spacecraft propulsion applications. The primary objective of the FY13 effort was to create particle-in-cell computer simulations of a TWDEC. Other objectives included construction of a breadboard TWDEC test article, preliminary test calibration of the simulations, and construction of first order power system models to feed into mission architecture analyses with COPERNICUS tools. Due to funding cuts resulting from the FY13 sequestration, only the computer simulations and assembly of the breadboard test article were completed. The simulations, however, are of unprecedented flexibility and precision and were presented at the 2013 AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference. Also, the assembled test article will provide an ion current density two orders of magnitude above that available in previous Japanese experiments, thus enabling the first direct measurements of power generation from a TWDEC for FY14. The proposed FY14 effort will use the test article for experimental validation of the computer simulations and thus complete to a greater fidelity the mission analysis products originally conceived for FY13.
Document ID
Document Type
Scott, John H.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
May 6, 2014
Publication Date
April 17, 2014
Subject Category
Energy Production And Conversion
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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