Analysis of Advanced Actinide-Fueled Energy Systems for Deep Space Propulsion Applications
Guy, Troy Lamar
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The present study is focused on evaluating higher actinides beyond uranium that are capable of supporting power and propulsion requirements in robotic deep space and interstellar exploration. The central technology in this thesis is based on utilizing advanced actinides for direct fission fragment energy conversion coupled with magnetic collimation. Critical fission configurations are explored which are based on fission fragment energy conversion utilizing a nano-scale layer of the metastable isotope 242mAm coated on carbon fibers. A 3-D computational model of the reactor core is developed and neutron properties are presented. Fission neutron yield, exceptionally high thermal fission cross sections, high fission fragment kinetic energy and relatively low radiological emission properties are identified as promising features of 242mAm as a fission fragment source. The isotopes 249Cf and 251Cf are found to be promising candidates for future studies. Conceptual system integration, deep space mission applicability and recommendations for future experimental development are introduced.