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Hybrid Reactor TEC-NIP


Hybrid Reactor (TEC-NIT) Conceptual Design Development

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-REA/Reactor Concept/Fission Reactors

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
NPO Lutch, Russia, Moscow reg., Podolsk

Supporting institutes

  • Kurchatov Research Center, Russia, Moscow


  • Rockwell International Corporation / Rockwell Science Center, USA, CA, Thousand Oaks

Project summary

The combination of propulsion and power generation functions in a single dualpurpose reactor would allow to build a bimodal space nuclear power/propulsion system, place twice as much payload on high-altitude orbits tup to geostationary ones) and to provide a power supply for on-board systems during up to 10 years at the power consumption level of (10-20) kW (e).

An increase of the payload specified above allows the-use of carrier rockets with a lesser load-lifting capacity for launching of commercial"satellites, that tends to significant economic benefits. So, for example, according to the data presented by the USA experts the change from the carrier rocket Titan 4/Centaur to Atlas IIAS reduces the expense per one launch by $ 200 M.

Such reactor can be built upon thermionic converter-reactor (TCR) based on single-cell TFEs. Owipg to its design features (isolation of interelectrode gap cavity from the TFE cavity; the availability of the central channel, going along the entire fuel length with the ends virtually open to space), such TFE is the most suitable one for combination of functions of the power and propulsion source.

By now the TCR prototypes are factory-made and their independent power-generating ground testings have been conducted. The planned operation time of the reactor prototype testing has achieved to 1.5 years at the stable output parameters with a sustain all TFE units and the reactor as a whole. The duration of the testing of TFE in a has achieved to 2 years and in the thermal stand - 3 years. The ways of TFE design improvements are determined and validated to bring the reactor service lifetime up to 10 years. In parallel with TCR the fuel assemblies for NRE have been successfully tested, too. Such high degree of the base reactor availability will allow to reduce the terms for the project development and realization.

The solution to this problem will be facilitated by the availability of new materials, developed in SIA "Lutch", such as carbide fuels with optimized compositions, high-temperature single crystal alloys based on tungsten and molybdenum, single crystal aluminum oxide as well as the other high technologies, enabling fabrication of the bimodal TFE units and parts from difficult to-machine materials via gasp-hase and powder metallurgy techniques.

The conceptual design of the power/propulsion system can be developed starting from the extensive background of SIA "Lutch" and RRC "KI" in the designing and development of thermionic energy converters and fuel assemblies for rocket engines.

The proposed project would allow to develop a conceptual design of a bimodal system and to provide with jobs skilled scientific, engineering and technical personnel.

The conceptual design development of a reactor for a bimodal space nuclear power/propulsion system includes the following tasks:

- development of the design concept for reactor based on a sing le-cell thermionic fuel element (TFE);

- alculations of reactor units' neutronics, electrophysics, hydraulic, thermal and strength parameters;

- determination of the range of allowable parameters for reactor operation in the modes of TEC and NTP;

- etermination of reactor lifetime parameters and possibility to change repeatedly from one mode of operation to another.

There will be developed a conceptual design of the reactor for the bimodal system and determined its weight/power properties according to results of this work. The project will synthesize the experience of the long-standing development of TCR and NTP.


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