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Affordable Development and Demonstration of a Small NTR Engine and Stage: A Preliminary NASA, DOE, and Industry AssessmentThe Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) represents the next evolutionary step in cryogenic liquid rocket engines. Deriving its energy from fission of uranium-235 atoms contained within fuel elements that comprise the engine's reactor core, the NTR can generate high thrust at a specific impulse of approx. 900 seconds or more - twice that of today's best chemical rockets. In FY'11, as part of the AISP project, NASA proposed a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) effort that envisioned two key activities - "Foundational Technology Development" followed by system-level "Technology Demonstrations". Five near-term NTP activities identified for Foundational Technology Development became the basis for the NCPS project started in FY'12 and funded by NASA's AES program. During Phase 1 (FY'12-14), the NCPS project was focused on (1) Recapturing fuel processing techniques and fabricating partial length "heritage" fuel elements for the two candidate fuel forms identified by NASA and the DOE - NERVA graphite "composite" and the uranium dioxide (UO2) in tungsten "cermet". The Phase 1 effort also included: (2) Engine Conceptual Design; (3) Mission Analysis and Requirements Definition; (4) Identification of Affordable Options for Ground Testing; and (5) Formulation of an Affordable and Sustainable NTP Development Strategy. During FY'14, a preliminary plan for DDT&E was outlined by GRC, the DOE and industry for NASA HQ that involved significant system-level demonstration projects that included GTD tests at the NNSS, followed by a FTD mission. To reduce development costs, the GTD and FTD tests use a small, low thrust (approx. 7.5 or 16.5 klbf) engine. Both engines use graphite composite fuel and a "common" fuel element design that is scalable to higher thrust (approx. 25 klbf) engines by increasing the number of elements in a larger diameter core that can produce greater thermal power output. To keep the FTD mission cost down, a simple "1-burn" lunar flyby mission was considered along with maximizing the use of existing and flight proven liquid rocket and stage hardware (e.g., from the RL10-B2 engine and Delta Cryogenic Second Stage) to further ensure affordability. This paper provides a preliminary NASA, DOE and industry assessment of what is required - the key DDT&E activities, development options, and the associated schedule - to affordably build, ground test and fly a small NTR engine and stage within a 10-year timeframe.
Document ID
20150021872
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Borowski, Stanley K. (NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Sefcik, Robert J. (NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Fittje, James E. (Vantage Partners, LLC Brook Park, OH, United States)
McCurdy, David R. (Vantage Partners, LLC Brook Park, OH, United States)
Qualls, Arthur L. (Oak Ridge National Lab. TN, United States)
Schnitzler, Bruce G. (Oak Ridge National Lab. TN, United States)
Werner, James E. (Idaho National Lab. Idaho Falls, ID, United States)
Weitzberg, Abraham (Department of Energy Cincinnati, OH, United States)
Joyner, Claude R. (Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. West Palm Beach, FL, )
Date Acquired
November 25, 2015
Publication Date
July 27, 2015
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing and Performance
Report/Patent Number
GRC-E-DAA-TN24797
AIAA Paper-2015-3774
Meeting Information
AIAA/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference(Orlando, FL.)
Funding Number(s)
CONTRACT_GRANT: NNC12BA01B
WBS: WBS 279585.10.99.99.99.22
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Public Use Permitted.
Keywords
Nuclear rocket engines
Spacecraft design
Lunar flyby mission

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