William Ziehm

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Jason Cassibry

Committee Member

Dale Thomas

Committee Member

Gabe Xu


Space vehicles--Propulsion systems--Mathematical models, Nuclear propulsion, Space trajectories


Centrifugal nuclear thermal propulsion (CNTP) has potential for supporting scientific missions to the outer solar system, shown by investigation of mission and vehicle architectures to the outer planets and Kuiper belt. The patched conic method provided initial guesses for numerical simulation and relationships between parameters of interest for trade studies, recommending engine performance parameters for missions supported by CNTP. Results of the patched conic model were validated by comparison to numerical results, which were within the expected variance for transit time with identical propellant margins based on literature. The trade studies gave a range of performance required to close rendezvous missions to the outer planets for 2 mT payload dry mass. These ranges were 1200-1800 s, 10-70 kN, and 1.5-4 T/W for direct trajectory transit times of 2, 3.5, 7.5, and 10.5 years to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Kuiper belt missions required 1600-1800 s, >60 kN, and >3.7 for transit times between 10 and 16 years depending on the trajectory type.



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