Autonomous Control of Space Nuclear Reactors (ACSNR)
Many future missions (both manned and robotic) targeting the Moon, Mars and beyond,
will need nuclear vehicle and surface power systems to provide their energy needs.
It is imperative that these systems be able to operate nuclear facilities reliably
and autonomously, with the added requirement for fail-safe protection in the case
of manned missions. Funded under the NASA SBIR program, the Autonomous Control of
Space Nuclear Reactors Phase II began in February 2009. The goal is to develop a
prototype of an advanced Reactor Instrumentation and Control System (RICS) for space-nuclear
reactors that addresses both aspects of autonomous operation and safety. Through
the successful completion of our Phase I feasibility study, we have identified the
operational and safety functions of Earth-based reactors that are applicable to
the space environment, while focusing on the stringent constraints for space applications.
Results show that significant cost, mass, power and volume savings can be achieved
in a highly reliable, autonomous reactor control and protection system that is viable
for space applications.