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Thrust Vector Control for Nuclear Thermal RocketsFuture space missions may use Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) stages for human and cargo missions to Mars and other destinations. The vehicles are likely to require engine thrust vector control (TVC) to maintain desired flight trajectories. This paper explores requirements and concepts for TVC systems for representative NTR missions. Requirements for TVC systems were derived using 6 degree-of-freedom models of NTR vehicles. Various flight scenarios were evaluated to determine vehicle attitude control needs and to determine the applicability of TVC. Outputs from the models yielded key characteristics including engine gimbal angles, gimbal rates and gimbal actuator power. Additional factors such as engine thrust variability and engine thrust alignment errors were examined for impacts to gimbal requirements. Various technologies are surveyed for TVC systems for the NTR applications. A key factor in technology selection is the unique radiation environment present in NTR stages. Other considerations including mission duration and thermal environments influence the selection of optimal TVC technologies. Candidate technologies are compared to see which technologies, or combinations of technologies best fit the requirements for selected NTR missions. Representative TVC systems are proposed and key properties such as mass and power requirements are defined. The outputs from this effort can be used to refine NTR system sizing models, providing higher fidelity definition for TVC systems for future studies.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Glenn Research Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Ensworth, Clinton B. F.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
April 14, 2014
Publication Date
October 1, 2013
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2013-4075
Meeting Information
Meeting: Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit
Location: San Jose, CA
Country: United States
Start Date: July 14, 2013
End Date: July 17, 2013
Sponsors: American Inst. of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society for Electrical Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc.
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 279585.04.01.22
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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