BWXT awarded additional nuclear thermal propulsion work for NASA
(1 April 2021 - BWXT) BWX Technologies (BWXT) announced today that it is continuing its groundbreaking Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) design, manufacturing development, and test support work for NASA.
NTP is one of the technologies that is capable of propelling a spacecraft to Mars, and this contract continues BWXT’s work that began in 2017.
Under the terms of a $9.4 million, one-year contract awarded to its BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC subsidiary, BWXT will focus primarily on nuclear fuel design and engineering activities. Specifically, BWXT will produce fuel kernels, coat the fuel kernels, design materials and manufacturing processes for fuel assemblies, and further develop conceptual reactor designs, among other activities.
The work will be conducted primarily at BWXT’s Advanced Technology Laboratory, Specialty Fuel Facility, and Lynchburg Technology Center, and it will involve more than 50 employees.
“BWXT has a decades-long history of supporting NASA, and we are very proud to continue our efforts for the country,” said Ken Camplin, BWXT Nuclear Services Group president. “Our designers and engineers have been working with teams at NASA, Department of Energy national laboratories and academia to help the United States accomplish one of humankind’s ultimate goals: to send astronauts to another planet and return them safely. This is exciting work for us, and it demonstrates the incredible diversity of talent and expertise that our company has developed.”
BWXT has been making significant progress on NASA’s NTP initiative, which has progressed from the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program to its Technology Demonstration Mission program. BWXT’s progress to date includes evaluating various fission fuel and reactor options, developing a conceptual reactor design, tailoring the fuel design to use High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU), and delivering specialty fuel particles for testing.
In 2020, as part of NASA’s in-space demonstration mission, BWXT delivered a study exploring several reactor configurations and fuel forms capable of delivering space nuclear propulsion. Two of the designs focused on power levels suitable for space demonstration in the near term. A third design was developed that leverages more advanced technology and higher power levels that could be ready in time for a Mars mission.
Rocket engines based on NTP technology are designed to propel a spacecraft from Earth orbit to Mars and back. Nuclear Thermal Propulsion for spaceflight has a number of advantages over chemical-based designs. In particular, NTP provides a low mass capability that allows astronauts to travel through space faster, thereby reducing supply needs and lowering their exposures to cosmic radiation.
At BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT), we are People Strong, Innovation Driven. Headquartered in Lynchburg, Va., BWXT provides safe and effective nuclear solutions for national security, clean energy, environmental remediation, nuclear medicine and space exploration. With approximately 6,700 employees, BWXT has 12 major operating sites in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, BWXT joint ventures provide management and operations at more than a dozen U.S. Department of Energy and NASA facilities.