NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-1 X8.03-9658
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Nuclear Surface Power
PROPOSAL TITLE: Autonomous Control of Space Nuclear Reactors

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Payload Systems, Inc.
247 Third Street
Cambridge, MA 02142 - 1129
(617) 868-8086

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
John Merk
247 Third Street
Cambridge, MA 02142 - 1129
(617) 868-8086

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 2 to 3

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Nuclear reactors to support future lunar and Mars robotic and manned missions impose new and innovative technological requirements for their control and protection instrumentation. Long duration surface missions necessitate reliable autonomous operation, and manned missions impose the added requirement of fail-safe reactor protection systems. There is a need to define an advanced instrumentation and control system for space-nuclear reactors that addresses both aspects of autonomous operation and safety. The constraints and conditions imposed on instrumentation for earth-based reactors are stringent enough to provide an excellent reference for a similar space-based system. However, these systems are typically analog-digital hybrids, and are not optimized for mass, volume, or power consumption. As a result, there is currently no earth-based reactor control system that is practical for use in space. We propose to develop a comprehensive reactor instrumentation and control system based on proven technology used at nuclear research facilities, for operation in the space environment and in particular for nuclear surface power facilities. The heritage established by these terrestrial 'reference' reactors through years of flawless operation on earth make them ideal candidates on which to base a compact, fully-digital space instrument for the control and protection of nuclear surface power systems.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
NASA foresees numerous applications of nuclear power reactors, with anticipated power needs that might range from a few kilowatts to the megawatt level. Illustrative examples of these applications are: deep-space missions, orbiting power stations, weather stations, habitats, surface mobility for robotic & piloted rovers; excavating and mining equipment, and science payloads in general. All of these applications will require autonomous systems for control, safety and monitoring of the reactor. Space-qualified reactor instrumentation and control systems will be a useful COTS product for manufacturers of space-qualified nuclear reactors. The predicted total demand is subject to the development of space-based nuclear reactors but it is not unthinkable to forecast demand in the order of a dozen a year.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The key likely non-NASA customers for space-based reactors will be the DoD, as part of future space-based surveillance or missile defense systems. At present, we are not aware of a planned system requiring nuclear power. However, given the energy levels, mission durations, and reliability requirements to support the DoD's mission over the next two decades, it is likely that space-nuclear reactors will be needed at some point.

With regards to ground-based applications, the concept of a fully-digital, compact, autonomous control system for reactors is very appealing. As part of our WRND effort we contacted several organizations which operate ground facilities. These included the MIT Nuclear Reactor in Cambridge MA and the RA6 nuclear reactor run by the Bariloche Atomic Center in Argentina. These organizations expressed significant interest in the benefits afforded by this type of instrumentation. It is highly likely these same organizations could benefit from the RICS proposed here.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Power Management and Distribution
Radiation-Hard/Resistant Electronics

Form Generated on 09-18-07 17:50