Russia advances development of nuclear powered Spacecraft

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At the MAKS-2013 air show, cooperation between Russian firms Rosatom and Roscosmos provided an updated layout of transport and energy module (TEM) with a space nuclear power plant (NPPUs) megawatt-class (NC number 10, 2013, p. 4). This project was presented publicly exactly four years ago, in October 2009 (NFP number 12, 2009, p. 40). What has changed in that time?

Recall that the purpose of the project – the creation of power propulsion base and on its basis the new space means high power for the implementation of the ambitious programs of study and exploration of outer space. These tools make it possible to implement expeditions into deep space, more than 20-fold increase in economic efficiency of space transportation and operations in more than 10-fold increase in electrical power on board a spacecraft.

The basis NPPUs put a nuclear reactor with turbomachine converter high durability. Development of TEM conducted by order of the President of Russia on June 22, 2010 № 419-rp. Its creation is provided and state program “Space activities of Russia in 2013 – 2020 years,” and the President’s program to modernize the economy.

The contract financed from the federal budget as part of special programs “Project Implementation Commission under the President of the Russian Federation for Modernisation and Technological Development of Russia’s Economy” *.

To implement this project forward in the period from 2010 to 2018 allocated more than 17 billion rubles. The exact distribution of funds is as follows: 7.245 bln Rosatom State Corporation intended to develop the reactor 3.955 bln – Keldysh Research Center to create propulsion units, and about 5.8 billion rubles – RSC “Energia” for manufacturing TEM. Umbrella organization responsible for developing its own nuclear reactor, is the Scientific Research and Design Institute for Energy Technology (NIKIET) included in Rosatom. In cooperation also included Podolsky Research Institute of Technology, RRC “Kurchatov Institute”, Institute of Physics and Power Engineering in Obninsk, SRI “Luch”, Institute of Atomic Reactors (Riar) and a number of other businesses and organizations.

According to the working fluid circuit of done much Keldysh Research Center, CB and CB chemical engineering chemical automation. By developing a generator connected Institute of Electromechanics. Draft first implemented innovative technologies, largely without analogues in the world: high-conversion circuit, high temperature compact fast reactor with gas cooling system, nuclear and radiation safety in all phases of operation, fuel cells based on high-density fuel sustainer propulsion system based on high-performance unit powerful electric propulsion (ERE) high temperature turbine and compact heat exchangers with a decade of design life, high-speed electric generators of high power converters; deployment of large structures in space, etc.

In the proposed scheme, a nuclear reactor produces electricity: gas coolant, runs through the core, turns a turbine that drives the generator and compressor that circulates the working fluid in a closed loop. The substance of the reactor does not go into the environment, that is possible radioactive contamination. Electricity consumed by work EWL, which the working fluid flow rate in more than 20 times more economical chemical analogues. Weight and dimensions of the basic elements of propulsion units must ensure their placement in space head part of existing and prospective Russian “Proton” and “Angara”.

Chronicle project shows its rapid development at present. April 30, 2010 Deputy Director General of Rosatom State Corporation, Director of Directorate for Nuclear Weapons Complex IM Kamenskikh approved design specifications of the reactor facility and TEM in the project “Establishment for transportation and energy module based on NPPUs megawatt class.” Document was agreed and approved by the Russian Space Agency. June 22, 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed Executive Order on determination of the only contractors for the project. February 9, 2011 in Moscow at the KeRC videoconference held companies – developers TEM.

It was attended by the head of Roscosmos AN Perminov, president and chief designer (PKK) “Energy” VA Lopota, director KeRC Koroteev, Director – General Designer NIKIET ** G. Dragunov and Chief Designer of space power plants NIKIET VP Smetannikov. Particular attention was drawn to the need to create a stand “resource” for testing reactor plant with energy conversion unit. April 25, 2011 Roscosmos announced an open competition for the execution of development work as part of a propulsion units, multifunctional platforms in the geostationary orbit and interplanetary spacecraft.

Following the contest (won by 25 May of the same year became NIKIET) was awarded a government contract expires in 2015 cost 805 million rubles for the creation of a poster sample installation. Contract provides for the development: technical proposals for the establishment of the bench (with a thermal nuclear reactor simulator) sample NPPUs, his conceptual design, design and technological documentation for prototypes of parts and products bench NPPUs basic elements, processes, and production preparation for prototyping parts bench products and basic elements of the; manufacturing of testing sample and holding his experimental mining.

The composition of the bench NPPUs sample should include the basic elements of standard setting to ensure the subsequent establishment of plants of various capacities on the basis of a modular principle. Poster design must generate a given power – heat and electricity, and create pull impulses common to all stages of functioning in a space vehicle propulsion units. The project was selected high temperature gas cooled fast reactor thermal power up to 4 MW. August 23, 2012 a meeting of representatives of Rosatom Roscosmos and dedicated organization works to create complex test for endurance tests required during project implementation TEM. It was held at the Research Institute of Technology named Aleksandrov Sosnovy Bor near St. Petersburg, where he planned to create said complex. TEM Preliminary design was completed in March this year.

The results allowed to move in 2013 to the design stage and construction of equipment and samples for independent testing. Testing and refinement of technology coolant began this year at the research reactor in the WORLD Riar (Dimitrovgrad), where the loop is set to test a helium-xenon coolant at temperatures above 1000 ° C. The ground prototype reactor plant is planned to create in 2015, and already 2018 should be made ​​to complete the reactor facility YAERDU and started its test in Pine Forest.

TEM first flight test may appear to the 2020 regular project meeting held September 10, 2013 in the state corporation Rosatom. Information on the status of and the main problems in the implementation of the program presented by the head NIKIET G. Dragunov. He said that currently the Institute experts have developed technical documentation project NPPUs, identified the main design decisions and perform work in accordance with the “road map” of the project. Following the meeting, the head of the Corporation “Rosatom” Sergey Kiriyenko NIKIET instructed to prepare proposals on optimization of the “road map.” Some details of the design and features of the project NPPUs found out during a conversation with representatives KeRC at MAKS – 2013.

In particular, the developers said that the installation will be done at once in full-sized version without making a reduced prototype. NPPUs has exceptionally high (for its type) characteristics: the reactor thermal power of 4 MW electrical power generator will be 1 MW, that is, the efficiency reaches 25 %, which is considered a good indicator. TURBOMACHINERY converter – Turbofan. In the first circuit used plate heat exchanger – heat exchanger tube heat exchanger and cooler. Last divides the main (first) loop heat removal and second heat exchange loop.

Regarding one of the most interesting solutions being developed within the project (choose refrigerators emitters of the second circuit), the answer was that we consider and drop, and panel heat exchangers, and while selection is made. On the illustrated layout and posters was presented with the option refrigerator drip emitter, which is preferred. In parallel, there are works on panel and heat exchanger. Note that the entire structure of TEM – convertible: startup module fits under the fairing RN, and in orbit “spreads its wings” – apart rods that carry long distance reactor, engines and payload. TEM will be used on a whole bunch of extremely powerful advanced electric propulsion – four “petals” on the six main engines of 500 mm diameter, plus eight smaller engines – for roll control and course corrections.

At MAKS – 2013 was shown working engine, already passing the test (until the partial deadlift with electric power up to 5 kW). EWL work on xenon. This is the best, but also the most expensive working fluid. Considered other options: in particular, metals – lithium and sodium. However, the engines on this working body less efficient, and conduct ground tests on such EWL very difficult. NPPUs design life inherent in the project, is ten years. Fatigue test is supposed to execute directly on the whole system, and the units work independently on the bench based enterprises cooperation. In particular, turbocharger, developed KBHM already manufactured and tested in a vacuum chamber KeRC.