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Advanced Zirconium Carbide Tie-Tubes for NTP

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX15CM51P
Agency Tracking Number: 154899
Amount: $125,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: H2.02
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2015
Award Year: 2015
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2015-06-17
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2015-12-17
Small Business Information
4914 Moores Mill Road
Huntsville, AL 35811-1558
United States
DUNS: 799114574
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 John O'Dell
 Senior Materials Engineer
 (256) 851-7653
Business Contact
 Timothy McKechnie
Title: President
Phone: (256) 851-7653
Research Institution

Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) has been identified as a critical technology needed for human missions to Mars due to its increased specific impulse (Isp) as compared to traditional chemical propulsion systems. To achieve this high Isp, NTP reactors must operate at extremely high temperatures (i.e., >2400K) for long periods of time. However, many of the best materials for some reactor components (i.e., support rods, control drums, and the reflector) cannot operate at these high temperatures. Therefore, high temperature insulators that are chemically inert, neutronically acceptable, and structurally stable are desired. The Rover and Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA) program identified zirconium carbide (ZrC) as a leading candidate for NTP insulator materials. However, the inherent brittleness and high melting temperature of ZrC make fabrication of complex components such as long, hexagonal tie-tubes extremely difficult. Recently, advanced Vacuum Plasma Spray (VPS) forming techniques have been developed for producing near-net-shape components from Ultra High Temperature Ceramic (UHTC) materials such as tantalum carbide (TaC) and hafnium carbide (HfC). Building on this success, advanced VPS processing techniques will be developed for producing long, hexagonal ZrC based tie-tube support rods for NTP.

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

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