NASA SBIR 2017 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 171 Z10.03-8482
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP)
PROPOSAL TITLE: Fuel Element for an Affordable NTR

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Howe Industries LLC
140 E Rio Salado pkwy, #902
Tempe, AZ 85281 - 8528
(480) 250-6820

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr Steven D Howe
140 E Rio Salado Pkwy, #902
Tempe, AZ 85281 - 8528
(208) 881-6002

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr Troy Howe
140 e rio salado pkwy, #902
Tempe, ID 85281 - 8528
(480) 250-6820

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 4

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) is a Technology Available (TAV) subtopic that includes NASA Intellectual Property (IP). Do you plan to use the NASA IP under the award?

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Howe Industries LLC will investigate, design, and demonstrate the fabrication of fuel elements for a safe, robust NTR - the Scored Plate Reactor as an Innovative Nuclear Thermal Rocket -- SPRINTR. This design will enable a compact, safe, robust, NTR to be designed that emits clean exhaust, high specific impulse, high thrust to weight, intrinsic subcriticality in accident scenarios, and affordability.

The SPRINTR design uses a stack of thin plates of fuel which have radial grooves etched into the top surface. The size of the grooves, number of grooves, and thickness of the plate can be varied to match power density. The coolant flow is a folded flow path identical to the particle bed reactor but the solid fuel form solves the problems of matching the power density. The flat plate fuel element allows extreme ease of manufacture and allows coatings to be easily applied if needed.

The basis of the concept will utilize LEU loaded tungsten fuel. This will allow retention of all radioactivity and clean exhaust. Clean exhaust will enable much more affordable ground based testing facilities to be considered. Separating each fuel plate will be graphite composite plates. These will be unloaded graphite which will moderate neutrons and provide a more thermal neutron spectrum. By providing a more moderated neutron spectrum, much less LEU will be required in the tungsten fuel. In the event the graphite elements crack or erode, no radioactivity or fuel is lost to the flow stream.

Due to advancements in cermet fuels, the SPRINTR can succeed where previous flat plate designs struggled. The proposed design allows for simple manufacturing, effective heat transfer, high thrust, and low mass.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
A human mission to Mars will drive technology and focus public attention. Leading the human exploration of space demonstrates the superiority of the US technology and industrial base to the world.

Robotic missions to the outer planets benefit from shorter mission flight times and higher payload masses-thus, greater scientific return. Similarly, human missions benefit from shorter exposure to galactic cosmic radiation and higher payloads for life support. Recent studies made at the CSNR have also identified the benefits of using an NTR to support a Lunar Outpost and to intercept an inbound "planet-killing" comet. The concept of using a NTR as a "space tug" to launch robotic probes to the outer planets is also possible. Previous studies have shown that the expense of developing the NTR could be recovered in 7 years even without the human mission to Mars and would see significant profits to private industry with the inclusion of a human mission.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Development of the fuel element for a compact, robust, safe, reactor with high power density could enable a number of systems with ground based applications. This project could lead to the development of a small, mobile power reactor for use at remote locations such as mines and research stations in Alaska or the Arctic. Such as application was pursued at the CSNR with support from the Alaskan governor's office.

The NTR is basically a heat exchanger. Heat exchangers are used throughout the commercial power industry. Development of a heat exchange with superior performance could radically impact natural gas power plants.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (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.)
Spacecraft Main Engine

Form Generated on 04-19-17 12:59