Nuclear thermal space propulsion update

BWXT provided progress updates and technology demonstrations related to BWXT’s nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) program. Jim Reuter, NASA’s acting associate administrator of STMD, toured BWXT’s Advanced Technology Lab in Lynchburg, Virginia to learn more about BWXT’s progress on the program that could support a future crewed mission to Mars.

Reuter watched demonstrations of three key technologies that BWXT has been developing to support the NTP program:

1) Advanced welding – BWXT demonstrated a new welding technology developed specifically for NASA fuel element fabrication.

2) Metallography – Technologists showed how they solve challenges in fabricating specialized materials used in NTP development.

3) Fuel Element Filling – The company presented a simple yet innovative way that it can fill fuel elements.

LEU nuclear thermal propulsion

Current development of 500 MW LEU CERMET fuel reactor for manned space applications.

* Design of 19.75% Enriched Ceramic Metallic (CERMET) Tungsten-Clad fuel
* Nuclear, thermal-hydraulics and mechanical design of the reactor
* Licensing and design support for full-scale full-thrust ground test of the NTP engine

Space Nuclear Thermal Propulsion

Formerly classified advanced technology design to develop and test high-performance nuclear reactor rocket engine for military applications.

Particle bed fuel
Mechanical, nuclear and thermal-hydraulic design of the core
Reactor control and auxiliary systems

Small Ex-core Heatpipe Thermionic Reactor

Program to develop a nuclear reactor in the power range of 10 to 40 kW for space applications.

Mechanical and Nuclear Design of UO2-Tungsten Clad Fuel
Mechanical, nuclear and thermal design of the core and shield components
Design of the reactor control and reactor support systems
Extended reactor design to include propulsion (Bi-Modal) capability

Nuclear Thermal Rocket Bi-Modal Reactor

Nuclear thermal rocket program to provide Bi-Modal propulsion capability for future human exploration missions to the Moon and Mars and generating electrical power for spacecraft systems.

Design studies for Various Fuel Types and Configurations including: PBR, UO2-Moly CERMET and Twisted Ribbon Ternary Carbide fuel forms
Mechanical, nuclear and thermal design of the various core configurations and shield designs


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