NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-2 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.
1 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02142 - 1189
(617) 500-4800

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
John Merk
1 Broadway 12h Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142 - 1189
(617) 500-0281

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Nuclear reactors to support future 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 added requirements for fail-safe reactor protection. There is a need for an advanced instrumentation and control system for space-nuclear reactors that addresses both aspects of autonomous operation and safety. Highly reliable, earth-based reactor instrumentation systems can provide an excellent reference for space-based designs, however there is currently no earth-based reactor control system that is practical for use in space.
In Phase I, we established the feasibility of adapting proven terrestrial reactor instrumentation for space application, and developed a preliminary architecture on which to base a flight system. This Phase II will result in a complete detailed design for a space-based Reactor Instrumentation and Control System (RICS), including fabrication and testing of a ground-based prototype for system evaluation. Additionally, we will leverage existing neutron detection technology developed under a previous NASA contract, and optimized for the space environment. This Wide Range Neutron Detector (WRND), in conjunction with the proposed RICS, will provide a complete solution for autonomous operation of space reactors from hundreds of watts to multi-megawatts.

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 and 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 on the order of a dozen a year.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The primary non-NASA customer is likely the DoD, as part of future space-based surveillance or missile defense systems. Given the energy levels, mission durations, and reliability requirements necessary to carry out the DoD's mission over the next two decades, it's very likely that space-nuclear reactors will be needed in the future. Other potential customers include government, military and university run research reactors where autonomous control and protection would be financially beneficial and/or safer by minimizing the need for human interaction in the vicinity of the reactor.
In its most basic form, the RICS is a ruggedized, compact data-acquisition and control system that could be adapted to support a wide variety of harsh environments. As such, the RICS could be a useful instrument outside the scope of a nuclear reactor. This includes military applications where fail-safe data acquisition and control is required with stringent size, weight and power constraints.

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.

Autonomous Control and Monitoring
Data Acquisition and End-to-End-Management
Data Input/Output Devices
Particle and Fields
Power Management and Distribution
Radiation-Hard/Resistant Electronics

Form Generated on 10-23-08 13:36