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A Revolutionary Lunar Space Transportation System Architecture Using Extraterrestrial Lox-augmented NTR PropulsionThe concept of a liquid oxygen (LOX)-augmented nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) engine is introduced, and its potential for revolutionizing lunar space transportation system (LTS) performance using extraterrestrial 'lunar-derived' liquid oxygen (LUNOX) is outlined. The LOX-augmented NTR (LANTR) represents the marriage of conventional liquid hydrogen (LH2)-cooled NTR and airbreathing engine technologies. The large divergent section of the NTR nozzle functions as an 'afterburner' into which oxygen is injected and supersonically combusted with nuclear preheated hydrogen emerging from the NTR's choked sonic throat: 'scramjet propulsion in reverse.' By varying the oxygen-to-fuel mixture ratio (MR), the LANTR concept can provide variable thrust and specific impulse (Isp) capability with a LH2-cooled NTR operating at relatively constant power output. For example, at a MR = 3, the thrust per engine can be increased by a factor of 2.75 while the Isp decreases by only 30 percent. With this thrust augmentation option, smaller, 'easier to develop' NTR's become more acceptable from a mission performance standpoint (e.g., earth escape gravity losses are reduced and perigee propulsion requirements are eliminated). Hydrogen mass and volume is also reduced resulting in smaller space vehicles. An evolutionary NTR-based lunar architecture requiring only Shuttle C and/or 'in-line' shuttle-derived launch vehicles (SDV's) would operate initially in an 'expandable mode' with NTR lunar transfer vehicles (LTV's) delivering 80 percent more payload on piloted missions than their LOX/LH2 chemical propulsion counterparts. With the establishment of LUNOX production facilities on the lunar surface and 'fuel/oxidizer' depot in low lunar orbit (LLO), monopropellant NTR's would be outfitted with an oxygen propellant module, feed system, and afterburner nozzle for 'bipropellant' operation. The LANTR cislunar LTV now transitions to a reusable mode with smaller vehicle and payload doubling benefits on each piloted round trip mission. As the initial lunar outposts grow to centralized bases and settlements with a substantial permanent human presence, a LANTR-powered shuttle capable of 36 to 24 hour 'one-way' trip times to the moon and back becomes possible with initial mass in low earth orbit (IMLEO) requirements of approximately 160 to 240 metric tons, respectively.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Conference Paper
Borowski, Stanley K.
(NASA Lewis Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Corban, Robert R.
(NASA Lewis Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Culver, Donald W.
(NASA Lewis Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Bulman, Melvin J.
(NASA Lewis Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Mcilwain, Mel C.
(NASA Lewis Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
August 1, 1994
Subject Category
Space Transportation
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.15:106726
AIAA PAPER 94-3343
Meeting Information
Meeting: Joint Propulsion Conference
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Country: United States
Start Date: June 27, 1994
End Date: June 29, 1994
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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