The Ohio State University
The exploration of space necessitates power dense energy sources. The need for power density is driven by the high cost per kilogram of putting an object into orbit combined with the much higher cost of putting an object beyond low earth orbit. Nuclear fission systems stand out as a promising space technology because of their ability to utilize fuel with unparalleled energy densities.
The goal of my research is to further the application and the development of advanced nuclear fuels for space applications. These advanced nuclear fuels have the potential to be more capable from a performance stand point and more sustainable from a development cost stand point. This combination of lowed development costs and increased performance increases the appeal of fission concepts and may one day lead to a flight hardware program.
Specifically, my research focuses on nuclear thermal propulsion and looks at how research reactors can be built and utilized to further their development. These nuclear thermal rockets use a W-UO2 cermet fuel. Other topics being investigated include: sub 10kWe reactors, molten salt fuels, nuclear thermal rocket design, multi-megawatt electric propulsion, power conversion studies, a study of alterative isotopes, and terrestrial spin off applications.
This work is in conjunction with the Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (NCPS) Project under Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate‘ Advanced Exploration Systems, managed out of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). A compilation of state of art computer code, such as MCNP, NJOY, ORGIN and FLUENT, will be utilized in this work. In addition, a number of experimental facilities and research reactors across the country will be surveyed to understand how the facilities can contribute to a cost effective development of advanced nuclear fuels. It is expected that this work will produce a number of analytical tools, design points, and mass models that will assist in the development of a number of space fission system concepts.