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Versatile Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP)A study was initiated to investigate propulsion stage and mission architecture options potentially enabled by fission energy. One initial concept is a versatile Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system with a maximum specific impulse of 900 s and a maximum thrust (per engine) of 15 klbf. The system assumes a monopropellant stage (hydrogen), and is designed to also provide 300 lbf of thrust (potentially split between multiple thrusters) at an Isp > 500 s for orbital maneuvering and station keeping. Boost pumps are used to assist with engine decay heat removal and low thrust engine burns, and to compensate for partial tank depressurization during full thrust engine burns. Potential stage assembly orbits that take full advantage of launch vehicle payload mass and volume capabilities are being assessed. The potential for using NTP engines to also generate a small to moderate amount of electrical power is also being evaluated. A first generation versatile NTP stage could enable 8 of 9 upcoming opportunities for short (less than 24 month) round trip human missions to Mars. A second generation versatile NTP is under consideration that could potentially provide a maximum specific impulse of 1800 s at 15 klbf, and enable ambitious missions throughout the solar system. The second generation NTP system under consideration would also allow a choice of volatiles to be used as propellant. This would potentially allow in-situ resources such as water, ammonia, methane, or other compounds to be used directly as propellant by the second generation engine.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Marshall Space Flight Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Houts, Michael G.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Joyner, Claude R.
(Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. West Palm Beach, FL, United States)
Abrams, John
(Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Witter, Jonathan
(BWXT Nuclear Energy, Inc. Charlotte, NC, United States)
Venneri, Paulo
(Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. Seattle, WA, United States)
Date Acquired
October 28, 2019
Publication Date
October 21, 2019
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: International Astronautical Congress (IAC)
Location: Washington, DC
Country: United States
Start Date: October 21, 2019
End Date: October 25, 2019
Sponsors: International Astronautical Federation (IAF-HQ)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Portions of document may include copyright protected material.
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