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General Atomics Designs Nuclear Reactor for NASA’s Future Mars Exploration

NTP reactor design
NTP reactor design

General Atomics' electromagnetic systems business has designed a nuclear reactor system as part of a NASA-backed research project aimed at powering human missions to Mars.

The Nuclear Thermal Propulsion concept met performance criteria under the Analytical Mechanics Associates-managed study and seeks to address fuel element corrosion and other issues seen in older nuclear systems, the company said Wednesday.

Christina Back, vice president of nuclear technologies and materials at General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, said her team used advances in high-temperature materials, nuclear fuel and other scientific applications in the NTP design process.

GA-EMS applied experience from Project Rover wherein the company produced roughly 6 metric tons of fuel kernel for the joint nuclear rocket development initiative between the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA in the 1960s.

The new reactor design uses high-assay low-enriched uranium to produce a compact core rather than using high-enriched uranium.

National Academy of Sciences' engineering and medicine committee on space nuclear technologies invited the company for a briefing session regarding the NTP technology.

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Written by Nichols Martin

a staff writer at Executive Mosaic, produces articles on the federal government's technology and business interests. The coverage of these articles include government contracting, cybersecurity, information technology, health care and national security.

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