NTP has great promise in spreading human presence to Mars and other locations beyond low earth orbit. USNC's submersion safe control systems will address key needs in NTP development to make NTP a viable technology to fulfill NASA human exploration needs. USNC's work directly aligns with the NASA Technological Roadmap 2015 "TA 2: In-Space Propulsion Technologies: 2.2.3 Thermal Propulsion" . Currently, NTP and USNC's submersion safe reactor shutdown technology are being investigated for a human Mars Mission in the 2030s time frame, but NTP also has application for many other applications beyond low earth such as lunar exploration architectures and robotic missions into deep space. In the near term USNC's technology will be able to support NTP development efforts by providing the research tools and insight required to understand water submersion accidents in LEU-NTP systems. Before the Phase 1, little work had been conducted on the water submersion in LEU NTP systems and a great deal was learned. After Phase 2, USNC will have a much greater understanding and modeling capabilities that will assist in NASA NTP development efforts. Beyond NTP the technology and expertise that USNC is building has application to small nuclear systems for surface power and science missions.
The market for NTP systems and their supporting technologies extend beyond NASA with numerous potential customers in private industry and defense field. NTP is a game changing technology and it is difficult to quantify this non-NASA market but it has the potential to be very large. USNC is pursuing earth based mobile reactors and small modular reactors. These reactors are different than traditional reactors as they can be shipped in whole or modular sections. In shipment of these reactors it is essential to ensure that they are subcritical during water submersion (much like space reactors). The technology developed in this SBIR may have application in addressing water submersion in these earth-based reactors. In addition, a number of other companies are trying to bring mobile or small modular reactors to the market and the novel technology developed in this SBIR might find a market here. The market potential for advanced reactors is several billion dollars and approximately 40 U.S. companies are trying to bring advanced nuclear technology to the market backed by total of more than 1.3 billion dollars of private investment. USNC's submersion safe control technology can address the needs of this emerging market.