Trade studies to recommend a novel, nuclear-fueled, recuperated, Closed Brayton Cycle (CBC) power system optimized for use in space are proposed. A CBC with nuclear heat source will need to incorporate at least three critical heat exchangers:
This program will include the preliminary design of the above components to arrive at defensible system-level mass estimates. The optimization of these critical heat exchanger components must be done collectively and in tandem with cycle and engine design efforts to appropriately capture the competing effects controlling total system mass. While architecture selection will favor production-ready heat exchanger concepts based on decades of related research, manufacture, and testing, the end result is predicted to be a novel blend of demonstrated fundamentals combined in new ways to achieve long, reliable life at extreme operating temperature and pressure with minimal mass. The special end use case of this system will likely require some deviation from established heat exchanger design methods, in which case preliminary design, analysis, fabrication, and lab demonstration of key innovations will be accelerated to fall within Phase I of the program.
A robust thermal-to-electric power convertor directly supports long duration manned missions, such as exploration of Mars. Power conversion unit may also serve as stationary power bridge during critical power infrastructure buildout for lunar or planetary bases.
Supports power generation needs for the burgeoning private space travel sector. Additionally, this effort will support ongoing commercial nuclear gas turbine projects for terrestrial power generation progressing toward reduced system cost, mass, and complexity. Advancement of high pressure, temperature, & effectiveness heat exchangers has application in emerging non-fossil power generation.