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Nuclear Reactors in Space: For or Against?


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https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20210026448

NASA’s Strategic Analysis Cycle 2021 (SAC21) Human Mars Architecture

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mars Architecture Team (MAT) was challenged to develop a mission architecture capable of transporting humans to the surface of Mars and back as fastand as soonas practical. This challenge represented a significant departure from previous approaches that minimized Earth-launched mass and maximized in-space transportation efficiency, often resulting in roundtrip missions of three years or more in duration. In the interest of crew health, MAT’s cross-Agency team of subject matter experts was challenged to develop an architecture capable of shortening crew time away from Earth to about two years. MAT was given specific mission constraints, such as number of crew, as well as mandates to minimize surface infrastructure as much as possible and to incorporate nuclear transportation options. The resulting MAT-developed concept, referred to here as the Strategic Analysis Cycle 2021 (SAC21) architecture, leverages Artemis elements and emerging commercial capabilities for cargo and logistics launches, and features a hybrid Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP)/Chemical transportation system able to complete the 1.8 billion kilometer round-trip journey to Mars and back in 760 to 850 days transit time for the 2039 Earth departure opportunity. Three Mars Descent Systems (MDS), each capable of landing about 25 metric tons of useful cargo on the surface of Mars, would be pre-deployed in advance of crew departure from Earth; two of these MDS’s would deliver a partially fueled Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), a fission power system, surface mobility, and additional MAV propellant. To minimize surface infrastructure, only two of the four Mars crew would descend and live in an MDS-landed pressurized rover, exploring the martian surface for 30 martian days, or sols, before returning to Mars orbit aboard their MAV and rejoining the other two crew on the Deep Space Transport for the Earth return voyage. Specifics of many of these architecture elements are detailed in separate technical publications; this paper outlines the end-to-end integrated architecture performance and concept of operations, including synergies with Artemis lunar architecture elements. It is important to note that NASA does not have a formal human Mars program and no decisions have been made; the architecture described here is intended to fill in an often-overlooked corner of the trade space, helping to complete the menu of options available to decision-makers as they chart the course for humans to Mars.

 

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https://usnc.com/nasa-selects-ultra-safe-nuclear-for-ultra-high-temperature-testing-facility-sbir/

 

"division of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), announces it has been selected by NASA to receive a Phase II SBIR contract to develop a proposed ultra-high temperature material testing facility. The specialized equipment could provide an essential terrestrial environment for testing the performance of materials planned for use in space-based nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) systems.

The demanding requirements for NTP systems necessitate development of breakthrough refractory and ceramic materials capable of performing in extremely high temperatures. Phase II of the SBIR will enable USNC-Tech to construct and operate a system capable of conducting sophisticated tests to verify the performances of key materials in a prototypical environment."

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https://spacenews.com/diu-selects-nuclear-powered-spacecraft-designs-for-2027-demonstrations/

 

"The Defense Innovation Unit announced May 17 it selected Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. and Avalanche to develop small nuclear-powered spacecraft for in-space demonstrations planned for 2027."

 

 
"Avalanche Energy has developed a device called an “Orbitron,” which utilizes electrostatic fields to trap fusion ions in conjunction with a magnetron electron confinement scheme to overcome charge density limits. The resulting fusion burn then produces the energetic particles that generate either heat or electricity, which can power a high-efficiency propulsion system. Compared to other fusion concepts, Orbitron devices are promising for space applications as they may be scaled down in size and enable their use as both a propulsion and power source."

 

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A little more info about Ultra Safe's REP spacecraft.

 

https://usnc.com/ultra-safe-nuclear-selected-by-diu-for-high-delta-v-nuclear-small-spacecraft-prototype/

 

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/2021_Phase_I/Extrasolar_Object_Interceptor_and_Sample_Return/

"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. The data collected from samples and data from interstellar objects has the potential to fundamentally change our view of the universe and our place in it."

"The core innovation of this spacecraft architecture that makes this amazing mission possible is the CAB, which has a power density of over 30 times that of Pu-238. The CAB is easier and cheaper to manufacture than Pu-238 and the safety case is greatly enhanced by the CAB's encapsulation of radioactive materials within a robust carbide matrix. This technology is superior to fission systems for this application because fission systems need a critical mass whereas radioisotope systems can be much smaller and fit on smaller launch systems reducing cost and complexity."

 

https://custom.cvent.com/216E523D934443CA9F514B796474A210/files/d0b0d3fd032a41c9828d0a3cd8b27177.pdf

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https://www.enpulsion.com/news/feep-first-successful-in-orbit-demonstration-of-a-feep-thruster/

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https://www.sncorp.com/press-releases/sierra-space-provides-integration-services-for-new-nuclear-propulsion-system-as-part-of-darpa-s-draco-program/

"Sierra Space, the new commercial space subsidiary of global aerospace and national security leader Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), will supply the propulsion components and integration services for a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system under a recent contract with General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). GA-EMS and Sierra Space will develop and demonstrate an on-orbit NTP system for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO)."

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On 6/1/2022 at 1:05 PM, Ramlaen said:

A little more info about Ultra Safe's REP spacecraft.

 

https://usnc.com/ultra-safe-nuclear-selected-by-diu-for-high-delta-v-nuclear-small-spacecraft-prototype/

 

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/2021_Phase_I/Extrasolar_Object_Interceptor_and_Sample_Return/

"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. The data collected from samples and data from interstellar objects has the potential to fundamentally change our view of the universe and our place in it."

"The core innovation of this spacecraft architecture that makes this amazing mission possible is the CAB, which has a power density of over 30 times that of Pu-238. The CAB is easier and cheaper to manufacture than Pu-238 and the safety case is greatly enhanced by the CAB's encapsulation of radioactive materials within a robust carbide matrix. This technology is superior to fission systems for this application because fission systems need a critical mass whereas radioisotope systems can be much smaller and fit on smaller launch systems reducing cost and complexity."

 

https://custom.cvent.com/216E523D934443CA9F514B796474A210/files/d0b0d3fd032a41c9828d0a3cd8b27177.pdf

Jwi640j.jpeg

https://www.enpulsion.com/news/feep-first-successful-in-orbit-demonstration-of-a-feep-thruster/

 

 

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https://www.rolls-royce.com/media/press-releases/2021/12-01-2021-rr-uk-space-agency-launches-first-study-into-nuclear-power.aspx

 

"Rolls-Royce has signed an innovative contract with the UK Space Agency for a study into future nuclear power options for space exploration. This first contract between both organisations represents an exciting opportunity to define and shape the nuclear power solutions required in space in the decades to come.

Rolls-Royce is the only company in the world with a singular focus on creating mechanical, electrical and nuclear power solutions that will be essential in tackling the challenges of the future. Space is one such challenging and growing sector in which Rolls-Royce believe power, propulsion and thermal management will play a significant role.

Dave Gordon, UK Senior Vice President, Rolls-Royce Defence, said: “We are excited to be working with the UK Space Agency on this pioneering project to define future nuclear power technologies for space. We believe there is a real niche UK capability in this area and this initiative can build on the strong UK nuclear network and supply chain.

“We look forward to developing this and other exciting space projects in the future as we continue to develop the power to protect our planet, secure our world and explore our universe” 

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “As we build back better from the pandemic, it is partnerships like this between business, industry and government that will help to create jobs and bring forward pioneering innovations that will advance UK spaceflight.  

“Nuclear power presents transformative possibilities for space exploration and this innovative study with Rolls-Royce could help to propel our next generation of astronauts into space faster and for longer, significantly increasing our knowledge of the universe.”

Rolls-Royce has a rich heritage in nuclear and is well positioned to lead this specific work package to define the future nuclear power solutions for space. The multi-domain applicability of emerging nuclear power solutions will mean the options outlined by Rolls-Royce will also have strong commercial and defence terrestrial use-cases, creating world-leading nuclear power capability for multiple markets and operator needs.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Space nuclear power and propulsion is a game-changing concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond.

“This study will help us understand the exciting potential of atomic-powered spacecraft, and whether this nascent technology could help us travel further and faster through space than ever before.”

Innovative power and thermal management alongside novel nuclear technologies, digital capabilities and engineering know-how have considerable application in Space; from the manufacturing and launch of space vehicles, to powering the increasing demand for on-orbit activities, in-situ resource utilisation and exploration. Rolls-Royce has existing, proven capability in these fields as well as significant experience in electrification and the provision of other high-density and sustainable power solutions, which will all support the growing space sector."

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https://sam.gov/opp/ede625f6657e4802a4f5ea2e11b0074d/view

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Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA), the Management and Operating Contractor of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) for the Department of Energy (DOE), releases this Notice of Subcontracting Opportunity (Notice) where qualified parties are invited to submit detailed technical and price proposals in accordance with the requirements described in Request for Proposal (RFP) No. 02986312, which includes solicitation instructions along with draft contract scope, terms, conditions, and provisions relative to the subject opportunity. Interested parties are requested to carefully review the RFP binders provided, including its Statement of Work (SOW) document (and applicable documents thereto) to gain a better understanding of the procurement and project requirements. Interested parties are notified that BEA has established a proposal due date and time of April 30, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time for this action.
Scope of Work Overview/Objectives:
The scope of work and success objectives associated with this Notice include:
• Mature a prototype NTP reactor to a design level equivalent to 30% fidelity of the final design that demonstrates the design meets project requirements; is technically feasible; completes or identifies appropriate trades; determines performance and design margins for the reactor and subsystems; identifies cost and schedule to complete and test the prototype reactor; identifies risks; and the design and analyses are generally at a level to successfully conduct a 30% design review.
• Define the NTP engine system and subsystems fundamental operating and performance requirements and to produce a reactor design down to the subsystem level, including core and reactor subsystem mechanical design. The successful subcontractor(s) will be responsible for refining the reactor subsystem operating and performance requirements that will be integrated with the system-level requirements.
Minimum Requirements:

In order to responsively respond (propose) to the subject RFP, interested parties are directed to the instructional document included with the RFP binder. Included are detailed technical and price submittals requirements, including both mandatory (go/no-go) and evaluation (scored) criteria . In order to be considered qualified and responsive, proposing firms must meet the following mandatory requirements:
• Mandatory Requirement No. 1: The Offeror shall demonstrate that it or its teaming partner(s) has the experience and current capability to handle Special Nuclear Material (SNM) with the ability to obtain an NRC license required to perform the phased scope requirements described in the SOW, or that the Offeror or its teaming partner(s) can make arrangements to perform necessary fuel handling work at a DOE site with appropriate regulatory oversight.
• Mandatory Requirement No. 2: The Offeror shall demonstrate that it or its teaming partner(s) has the experience and current capability to fabricate and test applicable nuclear components. If a proposing firm cannot comply with the mandatory criteria described, they would be considered nonresponsive, would not be evaluated further, and thus would not be eligible for award of a contract.
Eligibility:
BEA invites participation in this Notice from those capable and qualified parties engaged in relevant reactor R&D and demonstration activities. Teaming arrangement are acceptable; however, they must be in the form of a subcontractor/sub-tier contractor relationship. Proposals shall be submitted from one subcontractor (the "prime" subcontractor) with the responsibilities and capabilities of the sub-tier subcontractors clearly stated in the proposal. Additionally, Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) will not be eligible to participate as teaming partners in response to this RFP. However, proposing firms can broadly identify scopes of work they would like FFRDCs to perform. FFRDC support to subcontractor(s) may be established under a separate government work order arrangement as agreed to by the parties.

 

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