Neutronic, thermal hydraulic, and system design space analysis of a low enriched nuclear thermal propulsion engine
Krecicki, Matthew Andrew
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Nuclear thermal propulsion is the high thrust, high specific impulse rocket engine technology of choice for future missions to Mars and beyond. Current designs are focusing on low enriched uranium fuel systems to reduce development costs and regulatory concerns. These designs require careful examination to identify an engine that is able to satisfy NASA’s requirements. Previous work has focused on low enriched, but for limited cases of fuel options and without a fully integrated computational framework and assumed boundary conditions. This thesis relies on and extends previous publicly available NASA studies. Integrated system analyses are developed to account for neutronic, using coupled neutron and gamma transport in Serpent, thermal hydraulic, and system effects on engine performance. The results show that using an integrated system analyses approach yields a systematic assessment and identifies an ideal design space for future higher fidelity analysis to achieve mission needs set by NASA.