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Game Changing Development

Nuclear Systems (NS): Technology Demonstration Unit (TDU)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The Nuclear Systems Project demonstrates nuclear power technology readiness to support the goals of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. To this end, the project will: Demonstrate subsystem-level technology readiness in a relevant environment (Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5) Establish a hardware-based technical foundation for fission power system (FPS) design concepts and reduce risk Validate a FPS concept that meets exploration power requirements at reasonable cost with added benefits over competitive options Reduce the cost uncertainties for FPS and establish greater credibility for flight system cost estimates Generate the key gate products that will allow Agency decision-makers to consider fission power as a viable option to proceed to flight development The Nuclear Systems Project is aligned with STMD's Roadmap on Space Power and Energy Storage (TA-03) and addresses a key milestone for a non-nuclear subsystem demonstration of a "workhorse" 10-100 kWe fission system.  The National Research Council's review of the STMD Roadmap identifies Fission Power Generation as one of the top 16 NASA technology development priorities.  The STMD Roadmap clearly recognizes the importance of the planned non-nuclear demonstration as a crucial step in deploying an initial space fission system and a foundation for follow-on fission power system technology development.  While the 10-100 kWe class system is ideally suited for lunar and Mars surface power, the component technologies are readily adaptable to larger megawatt-class systems for Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP) missions.  Further, the analytical tools and non-nuclear testing strategies that will be exercised in this project can be applied to the megawatt systems as well as lower power (kilowatt-class) systems that may be needed for space science missions that exceed current Radioisotope Power System (RPS) capabilities.

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Technology Maturity (TRL)

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