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What's ahead in space exploration: Potential roles for the INL and the CSNR Steven D. Howe, Ph.D. Director Center for Space Nuclear Research 7/17/07

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what s ahead in space exploration potential roles for the inl and the csnr

What's ahead in space exploration: Potential roles for the INL and the CSNR

Steven D. Howe, Ph.D.

Director

Center for Space Nuclear Research

7/17/07

slide2

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploringwill be to arrive where we startedand know the place for the first time -T.S. Eliot

tangible benefits
Tangible Benefits
  • Sulfur volcanoes on Io around Jupiter-
    • Planetary geology, ionosphere of Jupiter, magnetospherics
  • Seas of methane and shorelines on Titan around Saturn
    • Alternative atmosphere; meteorology; xeno-chemistry
  • Ancient ocean beds on Mars
    • Geology; atmospheric decay; early life?
intangible benefits
Intangible Benefits
  • Finding an ocean on Europa
  • Demonstrating US technological capability by sending humans to Mars
  • Seeing the lights of a Lunar base each night
  • Motivating more students to pursue math and science
radioisotope thermoelectric generator rtg have been used since the apollo days
Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) have been used since the Apollo days
  • Pu-238
    • Non-weaponizable
    • 87.7 year half-life
    • Alpha decay plus gamma rays
  • Heavily encapsulated
  • Qualified against accident scenarios- fire, impact, explosion
  • 6-8% conversion efficiency
  • No moving parts
  • Around 200 kg/kWe
  • Continuous power
inl currently plays a key late stage role in rtgs for space missions
INL is responsible for final assembly and testing of Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs)

The New Horizons mission to Pluto – the highest-priority exploration mission of the decade – depended on INL fabrication

INL currently plays a key late-stage role in RTGs for space missions
radioisotope power systems rps
Current RTGs are simple, robust, and proven technology

Pu-238 running out

CSNR is currently examining possible alternative isotopes and new materials to ensure immobilization in accident scenarios

INL has facilities to fabricate new RPS systems

Current design study: Using RPS sources for space power and for long duration (>2yr) Remotely Piloted Vehicles for planetary observation

Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS)
radiation doses
Radiation Doses
  • What is your average mREM dose?
  • 360 mREM/year
  • A nuclear power plant worker can receive up to:
  • 5,000 mREM/year
  • What is an astronaut’s dose?
  • 1,000 mREM/week
ntr was developed and proven in the rover nerva programs in the 1960s
NTR was developed and proven in the Rover/NERVA programs in the 1960s
  • Pewee operated at 2550 K for 40 minutes at 503 MW
  • The engine weighed 5000 lb and would have produced a thrust of 15,000lbsf
  • Pewee was envisioned as an orbital tug to support a Lunar base
systems nuclear auxiliary power snap 10a reactor
Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP-10A) Reactor
  • 650 We (45 kWt)
  • Satellite malfunction after 43 days
  • U-ZrHx fuel (93% 235U)
  • Hastelloy® N cladding
  • Be reflector rods
  • B4C control sleeves
  • NaK coolant
  • Thermoelectric
  • 435 kg reactor mass

Experimental Criticality Benchmarks for SNAP 10A/2 Reactor Cores,A.W. Krass, K.L. Goluoglu, ORNL/TM-2005/54, April 2005.

jupiter icy moons orbitor jimo
Jupiter Icy Moons Orbitor (JIMO)
  • 7 yrs to Jupiter, 11 yrs to first science
  • Nuclear reactor
  • 100-150 kWe
  • Estimated mass= 11,820 kg
  • length of a football field
  • Mass chemical stage to escape earth = 12,000 kg
  • Specific mass = 100 kg/kw
europa
Europa
  • Hydrothermal vents exist on Earth on the bottom of the oceans
  • Diverse life exists at the vents that has never seen the sun and survives on a chemically based bio-sphere
  • Recent evidence suggests that life on Earth may have developed on such vents first over a billion years ago
  • Similar vents may exist on Europa
  • Tidal forces may have heated the Europa crust enough to melt an ocean under the ice
  • Conceivably, life may have developed in the Europa ocean also
to paraphrase
To Paraphrase:
  • Developing a new propulsion technology to travel to the outer planets-- $2B
  • Building a new probe using radioisotopes to penetrate 10 miles of ice-- $200M
  • Seeing the looks on the faces of children around the Earth as they see the first pictures of a new life form in an ocean on another world-- Priceless
our reach must exceed our grasp
Our Reach Must Exceed Our Grasp
  • The goals of the CSNR and INL are to help the country extend its reach as far as technologically possible to see what marvels, as yet unknown, will come back in our grasp.
summary
Summary
  • Nuclear technologies have been used in the US space program from the beginning
  • All missions beyond Mars have been enabled by RTGs
  • Nuclear rockets could enabled a human mission to Mars to be completed within 500 days total
  • Fission power will be required for the surface of Mars for human support
  • New alternative isotope power sources may enable unique science missions to map other planets
  • The CSNR Summer Fellows program is successfully examining innovative technologies for space