Before 2020: Required

Two-Phase Flow Thermal Management Technologies. NASA would benefit from the potential advantages of low mass, small component size, and isothermality for future missions with high power requirements. Research should be conducted to address active two-phase flow questions relevant to thermal management. (T1)

2020 and Beyond: Required

Regenerative Fuel Cells. NASA would benefit from the enhanced flexibility in power and energy storage offered by regenerative fuel cells. The necessary research should be conducted to allow regenerative fuel cell technologies to be demonstrated in reduced-gravity environments, including research related to dead-ended gas flow paths versus through-flow, cryogenic versus pressurized gas storage, thermal management, and reliable long-life operation. (T11)

Energy Conversion Systems. NASA would benefit from additional energy conversion capabilities in the low-and high-power regimes, as shown in Figure 10.2. The development of thermal energy conversion technologies beyond the existing thermoelectric and Stirling systems is needed to enable higher-performance missions. Research should be done on high-temperature energy conversion cycles and devices coupled to essential working fluids, heat rejection systems, materials, etc. (T12)

Fission Surface Power. Fission surface power could be a valuable option to NASA in the future for missions with high power requirements. The continued development of supporting technologies and systems space nuclear reactor power would ensure that reactor power systems are a viable option for future space exploration missions. Areas of physical science research that enable the development of those systems include high-temperature, low-weight materials for power conversion and radiators. (T13)


Radioisotope Production. While there are no underlying science or technology gaps, re-establishing domestic production of Pu-238 is necessary to ensure the continued viability of deep-space missions.

Space Propulsion

To support future space exploration missions, an evolutionary space transportation architecture will need to deliver humans, surface habitats, and transportation systems for the purposes of (1) exploration for science discovery and (2) maturing technology for the next exploration destination. In addition to supporting precursor missions in the near term, smaller scale and even micro propulsion options will be required in the far future, as exploration sensors and payloads become smaller and nanotechnology matures.

NASA’s original Constellation space transportation architecture consisted of Earth-to-orbit launch vehicles for delivering humans and large cargos to orbit.25 Proposed launch vehicles such as Ares I and Ares V were to use derivatives of the legacy large-thrust propulsion technology base including space shuttle solid rocket motors, Delta IV RS-68s, Apollo second and third stage J-2s, and Apollo/space shuttle aluminum cryogenic tanks. Thus, minimal technology development for launch vehicles was envisioned for missions to the Moon and Mars.

The Augustine Review Committee offered several other approaches in addition to the Constellation architecture, including the development of one launch vehicle for both humans and cargo, the use of current Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs), and space shuttle-derived concepts,26 to improve affordability and involve commercial space enterprises. However, in all cases, little or no new propulsion technology was required for these launch vehicles because existing, or derivatives of existing, rocket engines were envisioned.

For small- to medium-lift launch vehicles (e.g., current EELVs), cryogenic propellant depots for on-orbit refueling could reduce cost, increase mission payload, and improve mission success.27-30Figure 10.6 illustrates the

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement