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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Autonomous Control of Space Nuclear Reactors, Phase II

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Autonomous Control of Space Nuclear Reactors, Phase II
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. More »

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This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.