As governments and commercial entities compete for opportunities to travel to Mars and throughout deep space, the need for more efficient engines, reduced launch weight and increased payload capacities are constantly being developed. NASA is re-engaging its interest in Nuclear Thermal Propulsion because of its promise to double the efficiencies of competing engine types and fuels including higher energy density, greater thrust, reduced weight and increased velocities. In order to achieve these benefits, the proposed Nuclear engines need to run at temperatures exceeding 2700 degrees Kelvin, which necessitates the use of fuel rods to contain and manage the flow of hydrogen being utilized as a propellant. Until recently, the available materials lacked the performance properties necessary for the utilization of Nuclear engines.
Utilizing novel fibers, matrices and fabrication methods, the Offeror proposes the development of a new type of ceramic matrix composite specifically designed to meet the specifications and performance properties required for long-term use in Nuclear Thermal Propulsion engines. The Offeror's proposed fuel rod and/or cladding will exhibit revolutionary refractory capabilities, reduced hydrogen permeability, radiation tolerance, low creep, high thermal and mechanical stability, retention of fission products and improved manufacturability. The potential advantages of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion can now be realized through the development of novel materials and advanced manufacturing processes by a U.S. supplier.
NTP engines can safely and efficiently produce electricity, heat and propulsion. NASA applications include but are not limited to: solar system exploration, rocket engines for Mars and deep-space vehicles; interstellar transportation, power support for the International Space Station (ISS), and near Earth object (NEO) missions; auxiliary and on-board electrical power generation; power for interplanetary research stations, in situ resource utilization (which includes mining operations), life support and communication systems.
Hydrogen-fueled engines and energy (fuel-cell) systems for primary and auxiliary aerospace and maritime power; efficiency/safety improvements in nuclear reactor designs and fuel rod claddings; Naval reactor propulsion; ultra-high temperature refractory materials for use in hypersonics, heat exchangers, electrical power generation, turbine engines, agricultural and industrial manufacturing.