You are here

Fuel Element for an Affordable NTR

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX17CM30P
Agency Tracking Number: 175517
Amount: $122,565.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: Z10.03
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2017
Award Year: 2017
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2017-06-09
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2017-12-08
Small Business Information
140 E Rio Salado pkwy, #902
Tempe, AZ 85281-8528
United States
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Steven Howe
 (208) 881-6002
Business Contact
 Troy Howe
Title: Business Official
Phone: (480) 250-6820
Research Institution

Howe Industries LLC will investigate, design, and demonstrate the fabrication of fuel elements for a safe, robust NTR - the Scored Plate Reactor as an Innovative Nuclear Thermal Rocket -- SPRINTR. This design will enable a compact, safe, robust, NTR to be designed that emits clean exhaust, high specific impulse, high thrust to weight, intrinsic subcriticality in accident scenarios, and affordability.

The SPRINTR design uses a stack of thin plates of fuel which have radial grooves etched into the top surface. The size of the grooves, number of grooves, and thickness of the plate can be varied to match power density. The coolant flow is a folded flow path identical to the particle bed reactor but the solid fuel form solves the problems of matching the power density. The flat plate fuel element allows extreme ease of manufacture and allows coatings to be easily applied if needed.

The basis of the concept will utilize LEU loaded tungsten fuel. This will allow retention of all radioactivity and clean exhaust. Clean exhaust will enable much more affordable ground based testing facilities to be considered. Separating each fuel plate will be graphite composite plates. These will be unloaded graphite which will moderate neutrons and provide a more thermal neutron spectrum. By providing a more moderated neutron spectrum, much less LEU will be required in the tungsten fuel. In the event the graphite elements crack or erode, no radioactivity or fuel is lost to the flow stream.

Due to advancements in cermet fuels, the SPRINTR can succeed where previous flat plate designs struggled. The proposed design allows for simple manufacturing, effective heat transfer, high thrust, and low mass.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government