American Space Nuclear Electric Systems

Elvis Falcão Araújo, Lamartine Nogueira Frutuoso Guimarães


S: Since the 1960’s the United States of America has launched several space missions using nuclear technology as a mean for propulsion and power supply. The majority of the American nuclear powered spacecrafts were based in radioisotope generators, with the exception of the SNAP-10A (1965), which was the only American reactor ever launched. However, some of the most notorious nuclear reactor based projects developed in the USA in the last four decades were the SPAR/SP-100(an evolution of the Space Power Advanced Reactor program), the Space Prototype (SP-100), the Prometheus, and the Fission Surface Power (FSP). The latter is still in progress and the others were closed before its completion. This paper describes the main details about each one of these projects with the purpose of serving as a review of the technical history for the major realization steps that were conducted in the USA. This manuscript also approaches the contemporary state-of-the-art, with emphasis to the Demonstration Using Flattop Fission (DUFF) experiment and it’s follow-on project, the Kilopower prototype reactor.


Nuclear energy; Fission reactors; Space missions

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