SPEAR Using a Fission Reactor and Advanced Thermoelectrics

The Swarm-Probe Enabling ATEG Reactor, or SPEAR, is a nuclear electric propulsion spacecraft that uses a new, lightweight reactor moderator and advanced thermoelectric generators (ATEGs) to greatly reduce overall core mass. This will subsequently require a reduction in operating temperatures and reduce the total power levels achievable by the core. However, the reduced mass will require reduced power for propulsion, resulting in a small, inexpensive nuclear electric spacecraft.

They want to use it to bring ten CubeSats to Europa.

They think they can get the thermoelectric generators to about 25% efficiency.

If the advanced thermoelectric generators work then there would be a lot of earth-based applications.

4 thoughts on “SPEAR Using a Fission Reactor and Advanced Thermoelectrics”

  1. 1500 kg to bring 70kg of which only a small part is instrumentation (cubesats have a lot of dead weight) to Europa does not make sense. The rocket equation, when used well, + orbital mechanics offer much more capability. There are approaches , in use today, with a propulsion kit + propellant that weighs 70kg and can bring 1500kg to Europa within 5 years.

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  2. ATEG is the kinky one where they want a poorly shielded reactor to boost the TEG beyond a normal TEG by irradiating it, so it's easier to free up electrons for capture.

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