by Douglas MessierManaging Editor
Bob Zubrin’s Pioneer Astronautics has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to develop a radiator-free engine (RFE) that could be used in nuclear electric and solar thermal electric propulsion systems.
“In the RFE, cold water propellant or hydrogen used as the heat rejection dump for a dynamic cycle heated by a nuclear reactor, enabling Carnot efficiencies as high as 0.79 for water or 0.99 for hydrogen,” the proposal’s technical abstract said. “Some of the propellant that is boiled or sublimated off is then sent to an electric propulsion system, which ejects it from the spacecraft at high velocities to produce thrust….
“The Radiator Free Engine (RFE) enables very high power to mass ratio NEP and solar thermal electric propulsion. RFE systems could be used to transport payloads from LEO to the Deep Space Gateway. RFE systems could use water as propellant, enabling the Artemis Moonbase to support both cis-lunar and interplanetary transportation,” the abstract said.
“RFEs could enable fast trips between Earth and Mars. RFE reactor systems could also be used to supply power on surface of the Moon, Mars, and Titan. RFE lunar surface vehicles could go into shadowed craters ...