Within the framework of a joint program initiated in 1983 by the two French Government Agencies C.N.E.S. (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) and C.E.A. (Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique), in order to study space nuclear power systems for future ARIANE 5 applications, extensive investigations have dealt with the Brayton cycle, which has been selected as the energy conversion system. Several aspects can be mentioned in this field: matching of the power system to the available radiator dimensions up to 200 kWe, direct or indirect waste heat transfer to the radiator, the use of a recuperator, recent work on moderate (25 kWe) power levels, simulation studies related to various operating conditions, and general system optimization. A limited experimental program is starting on some crucial technology areas including a first contract to the Industry concerning the turbogenerator. Particular attention is being paid to the significance of the adoption of a Brayton cycle for space applications involving a nuclear heat source, which can be either a liquid-metal-cooled or a gas-cooled reactor. For a gas-cooled reactor, direct-cycle system, the relevance to the reactor technology and the concept for moderator thermal conditioning is particularly addressed.

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