Nuclear Thermal Propulsion for Jupiter and Saturn Rendezvous Missions
UAH PRC Research Database
Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Highly efficient nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) can enable a new class of planetary science missions for deep space exploration. This paper presents Jupiter and Saturn rendezvous missions using an NTP system that will focus on end-to-end trajectory analysis. The complexities of Earth escape and planetary orbital insertion using finite burn maneuvers are highlighted. With respect to the mission design problem, NTP-powered missions need to integrate the requirements and constraints of mission objectives, spacecraft design, NTP system design, and launch vehicle limits into a self-consistent model. Using a single high-performance-class commercial launch vehicle with a lift capability to low Earth orbit of 22 metric tons, an NTP-powered mission can deliver NASA?s large strategic science missions in a direct transfer trajectory to Jupiter in 2.1 years and to Saturn in 4.7 years.
Kumar, Saroj; Thomas, Dale L.; and Cassibry, Jason T., "Nuclear Thermal Propulsion for Jupiter and Saturn Rendezvous Missions" (2022). PRC-Affiliated Research. 12.