Power Management and Distribution System for a Mars Surface Fission Power Reactor

[+] Author and Article Information
Yayu M Hew

Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305

Kevin J Schillo

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

Akansha Kumar

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

Kurt Harris

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Utah State University, Logan, UT

Steven D Howe

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

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4040370 History: Received October 25, 2017; Revised April 20, 2018


This paper presents a power management and distribution system for a growing Martian colony. The colony is designed for a 15-year operation lifetime, and will accommodate a population that grows from 6 to 126 crewmembers. To provide sufficient power, a nuclear fission surface power system is proposed with a total capacity of 1 MWe. The system consists of three 333 kWe fission reactors. DC transmission with 2000 VDC is found to provide the best power density and transmission efficiency for the given configuration. The grounding system consists of grounding rods, grounding grids, and a soil-enhancement plan. A regenerative fuel cell using a propellant tank recycled from the lander was found to have the best energy density and scalability among all the options investigated. The thermal energy reservoir, while having the worst storage efficiency, can be constructed through in-situ resource utilization, and is a promising long-term option. A daily load following a 12-hr cycle can be achieved, and the power variation will be less than 10% during normal operation. Several main load-following scenarios are studied and accommodated, including an extended dust storm, nighttime, daytime, and transient peak power operation. A contingency power operation budget is also considered in the event that all of the reactors fail. The system has a power distribution efficiency of 85%, a storage efficiency of 50%, and a total mass of 13 Mt.

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