USNC-Tech is developing the next generation of Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM™) fuel which provides a new approach to inherent reactor safety. Industry-standard TRISO fuel, which contains the radioactive byproducts of fission within layered ceramic coatings, is encased within a fully-dense silicon carbide matrix. This combination provides an extremely rugged fuel with extraordinary high-temperature stability.
LEU NTP Systems
Low-enriched uranium (LEU) nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) systems leverage alternative fuel geometries, fuel materials, propellants, and moderators to achieve the high-performance levels traditionally only achievable through the use of high-enriched uranium. LEU NTP systems can function as low-thrust systems or bimodal systems (propulsion and electricity generation) and use non-cryogenic rocket propellants. Central to LEU NTP is the use of USNC-Tech’s ultra-high-temperature carbide (UHTC) microencapsulated fuel. These fuels are based on USNC’s FCM™ technology and use coated particles (e.g. TRISO or TRIZO) in a refractory carbide matrix (e.g. SiC, ZrC, TiC, NbC). This enables high-temperature and neutronically optimal capabilities while ensuring fission product retention.
The Pylon is USNC-Tech’s low-enriched uranium (LEU) space reactor system. Pylon utilizes technology derived from USNC’s MMR™ Reactor to provide electrical power and heat in locations such as the Moon, Mars, and in outer space. The reactor will provide 1 MWth for a period of 10 years at temperatures of 1,150 K. An integrated Brayton converter can be added to convert this heat to 150kWe. The mass of the Pylon is under 5,000 kg, and the Pylon is sized for landing on a Blue Moon-sized lander.
Chargeable Atomic Batteries
USNC-Tech’s Chargeable Atomic Batteries (CABs) provide the heat and electricity to operate onboard electronics, instruments, and other mission-critical systems on landers and outer solar system spacecraft. They thermally interface with spacecraft systems eliminating the need for electrical heating systems and reducing electromagnetic interference. Smaller CABs linked to thermoelectric converters power small electronics or other devices for many years without refueling on Earth. The CABs are powered by FCM™ technology, ensuring maximum safety.
Submersion-Safe Control Drums
USNC-Tech’s submersion-safe control drums improve the safety case for reactors with control drums for reactivity control by increasing their shutdown worth, ensuring that the reactor will remain in the shutdown state during accident conditions. Applications for submersion-safe control drums include NTP systems and small, mobile reactors. These can be customized to fit any NTP or small mobile reactor system using USNC-Tech’s suite of rapid simulation and development software. This technology was developed under a NASA SBIR grant.