NTP has great promise in spreading human presence to Mars and other locations beyond low earth orbit. USNC's passive criticality control technology will address key needs in NTP development to make it a viable technology to fulfill NASA human exploration needs. USNC's work directly aligns with the NASA Technological Roadmap 2015 which calls for complex reactor models to optimize the nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) engine systems. Currently, NTP and USNC's passive criticality control technology is being investigated for a human Mars mission in the 2030s time frame, but NTP also has application for longer term goals such as exploration beyond Mars and aiding in Space colonization. In the near term, USNC's technology will be able to support NTP development efforts by providing the research tools needed to address NTP related questions (TRICORDER) and give assurance that private industry can address key technology needs for NTP systems (BORGalloy, and HYPOSPRA). TRICORDER will be able to provide the highest fidelity modeling of the NTP system to date and will be a valuable research tool for developing NTP systems. Beyond NTP, the technology and expertise that USNC is building has application to small nuclear systems for surface power and science missions. Small nuclear systems are a very appealing technology for space exploration because they can provide power independent of solar availability and for extended periods of time.
There is an emerging market need for advanced reactors that provide power in locations and markets where traditional nuclear power plants cannot be utilized effectively. There are approximately 40 U.S. companies trying to bring advanced nuclear technology to the marked backed by a total of more than 1.3 billion dollars of private investment. USNC's passive reactivity control technology can address the needs of this emerging market. Specifically, our passive reactivity control technology can minimize the operator burden for controlling these new advanced reactors and as a result make the reactors safer and more profitable. As mentioned in the above section, USNC is pursuing this emerging market and actively developing small, passively safe, and long-lived nuclear power reactors that can be operated in remote locations. The technology and expertise developed in this SBIR can be directly applied to USNC's small reactor development efforts