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Space Technology Research Grants

Lightweight, Damage-Tolerant Radiator for In-Space Power and Propulsion

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Project Image   Lightweight, Damage-Tolerant Radiator for In-Space Power and Propulsion

Nuclear-electric propulsion promises numerous advantages over other in-space propulsion technologies. However, one serious limitation is the mass of the radiator needed for the energy conversion system; the radiator can approach 40% of the vehicle's mass. A novel concept for a lightweight, damage-tolerant thermal radiator was developed at the University of Massachusetts. Preliminary models showed that this concept has the potential to meet or exceed the targets for radiated power per unit mass and per unit area that have been established by NASA for nuclear-electric spacecraft, significantly exceeding the performance of current radiators. It is proposed to use that preliminary work as the basis for designing a more refined implementation, constructing a laboratory model employing the novel architecture, testing it in vacuum chambers at NASA MSFC, and validating the modeled performance.

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