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Space Fission Power Post #7:Entry-Level Option: Low Power Space Reactor (LPSR) Systems

23 May 2012, 23:34 UTC
Space Fission Power Post #7:Entry-Level Option: Low Power Space Reactor (LPSR) Systems
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

A space fission system that utilizes a low power space reactor (LPSR) meets the two primary criteria of an entry-level space fission system: 1) a near-term space exploration need and 2) an affordable development approach. The need for a LPSR system is driven by NASA’s need to continue and expand its robotic exploration of the solar system. NASA has dependably relied on radioisotope systems to power science missions for many decades; however, there is no current supply of Pu-238 to meet NASA’s near-term exploration goals. Because of this, NASA prompted DOE to restart production of Pu-238, although the present effort will produce only a small fraction of NASA’s anticipated needs, and not for several years. Even if an option existed that could produce all the Pu-238 that NASA would like, the integrated cost of producing the power sources would inhibit the number/level of missions that NASA could pursue. To mitigate the Pu-238 supply/cost issue, NASA has invested in Stirling conversion technology, which can provide ~4 times the electrical output per gram of Pu-238 as compared to thermoelectrics. This approach appears to be on a successful track, but does not solve the underlying problem. Even with Stirling engines, a long-term supply ...

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