New Reactor Concepts Selected For Deep Space Exploration

Three reactor design concept proposals for a nuclear thermal propulsion system for deep space missions have been selected by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will award 12-month contracts to three consortia to each produce a conceptual reactor design that could support future deep space mission needs.

These are:

  • BWX Technologies (with Lockheed Martin);
  • General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (with X-energy and Aerojet Rocketdyne);
  • Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Research, Framatome (ENS Corporate Members) and Materion).

The reactor will be a critical component of a nuclear thermal engine, which would utilise high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel.

Nuclear propulsion provides greater propellant efficiency as compared with chemical rockets.

It is a potential technology for crew and cargo missions to Mars and science missions to the outer solar system, enabling faster and more robust missions.

Read the World Nuclear News article.