The present European ARIANE space program will expand into the large ARIANE 5 launch vehicle from 1995. It is assumed that important associated missions would require the generation of 200 kWe or more in space during several years at the very beginning of the next century. For this reason, in 1983, the French C.N.E.S. (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) and C.E.A. (Commissariat a` l’Energie Atomique) have initiated preliminary studies of a space nuclear power system. The currently selected conversion system is a closed Brayton cycle. Reasons for this choice are given: high efficiency of a dynamic system; monophasic, inert working fluid; extensive turbomachinery experience, etc. A key aspect of the project is the adaptation to heat rejection conditions, namely to the radiator geometry which depends upon the dimensions of the ARIANE 5 spacecraft. In addition to usual concepts already studied for space applications, another cycle arrangement is being investigated which could offer satisfactory compromises among many considerations, increase the efficiency of the system, and make it more attractive as far as the specific mass (kg/kWe), the specific radiator area (m2/kWe), and various technological aspects are concerned. Comparative details are presented.

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