of a Nuclear-Powered Rover for Lunar or Martian Exploration
Holly R. Trellue, David I. Poston, and Rachell Troutner, Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, NM
In order to perform more advanced studies on the surface of the moon or Mars, a rover must provide long-term power up to or above 10kWe. However, a majority of rovers in the past have been designed for much lower power levels (i.e. on the order of watts) or for shorter operating periods using stored power. Thus, more complex systems would be needed to generate more power. One possible design for a more highly powered rover involves using a nuclear reactor to supply energy to the rover and material from the surface of the moon or Mars to shield the electronics from high neutron fluxes and gamma dose rates. Typically, one of the main disadvantages o fusing a nuclear-powered rover is that the required shielding would be heavy and expensive to include as part of the payload on a mission. By obtaining most of the required shielding material form the surface of the moon or Mars, it would reduce the cost of the mission while still providing the necessary power. This paper describes the basic design of a rover that uses a Heatpipe Power System as an energy source, including the shielding and reactor control issues associated with the design. It also briefly discusses the amount of power that can be produced by other power methods (solar/photovoltaic cells, radioisotope thermal generator (RTGs), DIPs, laser techniques, and the production of methane form the surface of mars) as a comparison to the Heatpipe Power System.