Powering the Future of Space Exploration: DIU Launching Next-Generation Nuclear Propulsion and Power

Nuclear thermal propulsion system. (Credit; USNC-Tech)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., May 17, 2022 (DIU) — The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) is advancing two different approaches to accelerate ground and flight testing for nuclear-powered prototypes: compact fusion and next-gen radioisotope concepts.  The ultimate objective is to launch a successful orbital prototype demonstration in 2027 of each approach.

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USNC-Tech Team Wins Contract to Develop Nuclear Thermal Propulsion System For NASA

Nuclear thermal propulsion system. (Credit; USNC-Tech)

NTP Technology Can Enable Human Missions to Mars

SEATTLE (USNC-Tech PR) — Idaho National Laboratory has selected USNC-Tech and its partners to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) reactor concept design for space exploration: the Power-Adjusted Demonstration Mars Engine (PADME) NTP engine.

This effort, one of three selected by the government team, is a step toward the manufacture and demonstration of safe, affordable, reliable, high-performance NTP engines for crewed deep space travel. In the future, the designs could inform a full-scale NTP engine prototype. The funding for this procurement was provided by NASA. INL is operated by Battelle Energy Alliance for the Department of Energy.

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NASA Announces Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Reactor Concept Awards

Illustration of a conceptual spacecraft enabled by nuclear thermal propulsion. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is leading an effort, working with the Department of Energy (DOE), to advance space nuclear technologies. The government team has selected three reactor design concept proposals for a nuclear thermal propulsion system. The reactor is a critical component of a nuclear thermal engine, which would utilize high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel.

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NASA Funds Research into Extrasolar Object Interceptor and Sample Return Technology

Artist’s depiction of the Extrasolar Object Interceptor (Credits: Christopher Morrison)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I Award
Funding: up to $125,000
Study Period: 9 months

Extrasolar Object Interceptor and Sample Return Enabled by Compact, Ultra Power Dense Radioisotope Batteries
Christopher Morrison
Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation – Space (USNC-Space)
Seattle, Wash.

Synopsis

USNC-Tech is proposing a compact 20 kWe, 500 kg dry mass, radioisotope-electric-propulsion spacecraft design powered by a novel Chargeable Atomic Battery (CAB) that is capable of ∆Vs on the order of 100 km/s with a power system specific mass of 5-8 kg/kWe. A spacecraft powered by this technology will be able to catch up to an extrasolar object, collect a sample, and return to earth within a 10-year timeframe.

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NASA Selects 5 Space Transportation Projects for SBIR Phase II Funding

NASA has selected five propulsion projects for phase 2 funding under its Small Business Innovation Business (SBIR) program. The space agency will enter into negotiations with the five companies on contracts worth up to $750,000 over two years.

Three of the projects involve technology for the storage and transfer of cryogenic propellants in space. The other two projects would fund development of nuclear systems.

The selected projects include:

  • Lightweight, High-Flow, Low Connection-Force, In-Space Cryogenic Propellant Coupling — Altius Space Machines, Inc, Broomfield, CO
  • Innovative Stirling-Cycle Cryocooler for Long Term In-Space Storage of Cryogenic Liquid Propellants — Converter Source, LLC, Athens, OH
  • Proposal Title: A High Efficiency Cryocooler for In-Space Cryogenic Propellant Storage — Creare, LLC, Hanover, NH
  • Joining of Tungsten Cermet Nuclear Fuel — Plasma Processes, LLC, Huntsville, AL
  • Accident Tolerant Reactor Shutdown for NTP Systems — Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, Los Alamos, NM

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NASA Selects Propulsion SBIRs & STTRs

NASA LOGOAs I was looking through NASA’s recent small business selection announcement for propulsion-related projects, I have found that the space agency has selected 29 Small Business Innovation Research and 8 Small Business Technology Transfer proposals for funding.

The proposals cover a wide range of areas, including in-space propulsion for CubeSats to technologies for new launch vehicles. Several proposals are also focused on in-space propellant depots.

A list of the selected projects with links to the proposals follows.

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