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Autonomous Control of Space Nuclear Reactors

Award Information

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2009 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation
9950 Wakeman Drive Manassas, VA -
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 2
Fiscal Year: 2009
Title: Autonomous Control of Space Nuclear Reactors
Agency: NASA
Contract: NNX09CA53C
Award Amount: $599,862.00


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.

Principal Investigator:

John Merk
Principal Investigator

Business Contact:

Scott Hart
Financial Analyst
Small Business Information at Submission:

Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation
9950 Wakeman Drive Manassas, VA 20110

EIN/Tax ID: 541502935
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No