Nerva-derived reactor coolant channel model for Mars mission applications

Edward W Porta, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


NERVA-Derived Reactor Coolant Channel Model for Mars Mission Applications presents the results of a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) study of a 1.3m NERVA-Derived Reactor (NDR) coolant channel; The CFD code FLOW-3D was used to model the flow of gaseous hydrogen through the core of a NDR. Hydrogen passes through the core by way of coolant channels, acting as the coolant for the reactor as well as the propellant for the rocket. Hydrogen enters the channel in a high density/low temperature state and exits in a low density/high temperature state necessitating the use of a compressible model. Design specifications from a technical paper were used for the model; It was determined that the pressure drop across the length of the channel was higher than previously estimated (0.9 MPa), indicating the possible need for more powerful coolant pumps and a re-evaluation of the design specifications.