Lockheed Martin jets into nuclear electrical spacecraft power – SatNews

Scorching off the heels of the DRACO announcement in July 2023, Lockheed Martin was awarded $33.7 million from the Air Pressure Analysis Laboratory (AFRL) for the Joint Emergent Know-how Supplying On-Orbit Nuclear (JETSON) Excessive Energy program to mature high-power nuclear electrical energy and propulsion applied sciences and spacecraft design. The JETSON effort is now within the preliminary design evaluation stage, with the choice to go to important design evaluation degree.

With House Nuclear Energy Corp. (SpaceNukes) and BWX Applied sciences, Inc. (BWXT) as our companions – each of whom carry deep experience in nuclear energy and reactor design – our JETSON staff will handle the escalating want for superior spacecraft mobility, situational consciousness, and energy technology that far surpasses conventional spacecraft capabilities. Offering each on-board electrical energy and the flexibility to energy electrical propulsion Corridor thrusters used on Lockheed Martin’s LM2100 satellites, JETSON serves as a important step ahead in utilizing nuclear electrical propulsion to get people to the Moon, Mars and past.

JETSON will use a fission reactor that generates warmth, which is then transferred to Stirling engines to supply between 6 kWe and 20 kWe of electrical energy – 4 instances the ability of standard photo voltaic arrays with out the should be in steady daylight. The reactor attracts closely from the design and classes of the 2018 Kilopower Reactor Utilizing Stirling Know-how (KRUSTY) demonstration led by NASA and the DoE’s Nationwide Nuclear Safety Administration.

NASA and NNSA engineers decrease the wall of the vacuum chamber across the Kilowatt Reactor Utilizing Stirling TechnologY (KRUSTY system). The vacuum chamber is later evacuated to simulate the circumstances of area when KRUSTY operates. Credit: Los Alamos Nationwide Laboratory

This know-how has the potential to supply a lot larger electrical output than spacecraft powered by photo voltaic panels, which typically garner about 600 watts of energy, or the equal of six mild bulbs. For deep area exploration missions not as near the solar, or in shadowed areas, nuclear electric-powered subsystems are an ideal different to have in an organization’s power-generation toolkit.

As on different area nuclear packages, security is a high precedence with JETSON. Uranium, previous to the beginning of the fission course of, is benign. Throughout launch, the reactor is in an inert, inactive configuration and is designed to not activate and begin the fission course of till the spacecraft is in a protected non-decaying orbit far out from Earth.

The event work can be performed throughout the nation together with at Lockheed Martin’s facility close to Denver, at AFRL’s facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at SpaceNukes’ facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico and at BWXT in Lynchburg, Virginia. A number of New Mexico-based nationwide labs, services and suppliers will even assist.

Nuclear fission improvement for area functions is essential to introducing applied sciences that would dramatically change how we transfer and discover within the vastness of area,” mentioned . “From high-power electrical subsystem and electrical propulsion, to nuclear thermal propulsion or fission floor energy, Lockheed Martin is concentrated on creating these programs with our vital authorities businesses and business companions.” — Barry Miles, program supervisor and principal investigator, JETSON, Lockheed Martin

A future JETSON flight experiment will improve maneuver and energy capabilities shaping future area drive operations,” mentioned . “The US has not flown a reactor in area since 1965. As the primary novel reactor examined in additional than 50 years, we’re giving our nation a technical leap – each terrestrially and on-orbit – in addition to the flexibility to develop future area exploration.” — Andy Phelps, CEO, SpaceNukes

BWXT’s assist because the nuclear producer on the JETSON program enhances Lockheed Martin’s heritage area flight capabilities and SpaceNukes’ nuclear design experience,” mentioned . “Constructing upon the KRUSTY demonstration, BWXT funding and distinctive infrastructure, the staff is well-positioned to ship and fly an area nuclear system underneath the JETSON program.” — Joe Miller, President, BWXT Superior Applied sciences LLC

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