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Multi-MW Closed Cycle MHD Nuclear Space Power Via Nonequilibrium He/Xe Working PlasmaProspects for a low specific mass multi-megawatt nuclear space power plant were examined assuming closed cycle coupling of a high-temperature fission reactor with magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) energy conversion and utilization of a nonequilibrium helium/xenon frozen inert plasma (FIP). Critical evaluation of performance attributes and specific mass characteristics was based on a comprehensive systems analysis assuming a reactor operating temperature of 1800 K for a range of subsystem mass properties. Total plant efficiency was expected to be 55.2% including plasma pre-ionization power, and the effects of compressor stage number, regenerator efficiency and radiation cooler temperature on plant efficiency were assessed. Optimal specific mass characteristics were found to be dependent on overall power plant scale with 3 kg/kWe being potentially achievable at a net electrical power output of 1-MWe. This figure drops to less than 2 kg/kWe when power output exceeds 3 MWe. Key technical issues include identification of effective methods for non-equilibrium pre-ionization and achievement of frozen inert plasma conditions within the MHD generator channel. A three-phase research and development strategy is proposed encompassing Phase-I Proof of Principle Experiments, a Phase-II Subscale Power Generation Experiment, and a Phase-III Closed-Loop Prototypical Laboratory Demonstration Test.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Litchford, Ron J. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Harada, Nobuhiro (Nagaoka Univ. of Technology Nagaoka, Japan)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
February 7, 2011
Publication Information
Publication: Proceedings of Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Report/Patent Number
Paper 3349
Meeting Information
Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS 2011)(Albuquerque, NM)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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