Mass Optimization of a Supercritical CO2 Brayton Cycle Power Conversion System for a Mars Surface Fission Power Reactor

[+] Author and Article Information
Kurt E. Harris

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Utah State University Logan, UT

Kevin J. Schillo

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville, AL 35899

Yayu M. Hew

Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering Stanford University Stanford, CA 94305

Akansha Kumar

Center for Space Nuclear Research Idaho National Laboratory Idaho Falls, ID 83401

Steven D. Howe

Talos Power LLC Idaho Falls, ID 83402

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4035974 History: Received October 24, 2016; Revised February 06, 2017


In NASA's Design Reference Architecture 5.0 (DRA 5.0), fission surface power systems (FSPS) are described as “enabling for the human exploration of Mars”. This study investigates the design of a power conversion system (PCS) based on supercritical CO2 (S-CO2) Brayton configurations for a growing Martian colony. Various configurations utilizing regeneration, intercooling, and reheating are analyzed. A model to estimate the mass of the PCS is developed and used to obtain a realistic mass-optimized configuration. This mass model is conservative, being based on simple concentric tube counterflow heat exchangers and published data regarding turbomachinery masses. For load following and redundancy purposes, the FSPS consists of three 333 kWe reactors and PCS to provide a total of 1MWe for 15 years. The optimal configuration is a S-CO2 Brayton cycle with 60% regeneration and two stages of intercooling. Analyses are mostly performed in MATLAB, with certain data provided by a COMSOL model of part of a low-enriched uranium (LEU) ceramic metallic (CERMET) reactor core.

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