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People Strong - Innovation Driven

Nuclear Thermal Propulsion

BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) is working with NASA in support of the agency’s Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) Project. BWXT is responsible for initiating conceptual designs of an NTP reactor in hopes of powering a future manned mission to Mars.

NTP possesses numerous advantages over traditional chemical propulsion systems. With NTP technology’s high-energy density and resulting spacecraft thrust, NASA is projecting up to a 50 percent reduction in interplanetary travel times compared to chemical rockets, significantly increasing the crew's safety by reducing exposure to cosmic radiation.

For this latest interplanetary endeavor, BWXT is drawing upon its extensive space nuclear reactor experience. While previous projects utilized high-enriched uranium, the current NTP Project relies on low-enriched uranium.

LEU Nuclear Thermal Propulsion

Current development of 500 MW LEU CERMET fuel reactor for manned space applications.

  • Design of 19.75% Enriched Ceramic Metallic (CERMET) Tungsten-Clad fuel
  • Nuclear, thermal-hydraulics and mechanical design of the reactor
  • Licensing and design support for full-scale full-thrust ground test of the NTP engine

BWXT's Space Nuclear Experience

Space Nuclear Thermal Propulsion

Formerly classified advanced technology design to develop and test high-performance nuclear reactor rocket engine for military applications.

  • Particle bed fuel
  • Mechanical, nuclear and thermal-hydraulic design of the core
  • Reactor control and auxiliary systems

Small Ex-core Heatpipe Thermionic Reactor

Program to develop a nuclear reactor in the power range of 10 to 40 kW for space applications.

  • Mechanical and Nuclear Design of UO2-Tungsten Clad Fuel
  • Mechanical, nuclear and thermal design of the core and shield components
  • Design of the reactor control and reactor support systems
  • Extended reactor design to include propulsion (Bi-Modal) capability

Nuclear Thermal Rocket
Bi-Modal Reactor

Nuclear thermal rocket program to provide Bi-Modal propulsion capability for future human exploration missions to the Moon and Mars and generating electrical power for spacecraft systems.

  • Design studies for Various Fuel Types and Configurations including: PBR, UO2-Moly CERMET and Twisted Ribbon Ternary Carbide fuel forms
  • Mechanical, nuclear and thermal design of the various core configurations and shield designs

Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter

Program to develop a revolutionary ion propulsion system powered by a small 200 kW nuclear reactor for Jupiter Moons exploration.

  • Uranium nitride fuel for JIMO mission
  • Mechanical, nuclear and thermal design of the core and shield components
  • Reactor control design and reactor support systems design