Summary of Historical Solid Core Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Fuels Public

Nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) is a viable and advantageous method of propulsion for human missions to mars and beyond. There have been four different historical programs which have developed and tested NTP fuel forms in the United States and former Soviet Union. Some programs reached a level of advancement at which more than one design or composition was developed. All in all, these programs produced unique fuel forms including: basic coated graphite, CERMET, particle, mixed carbide, and composite fuels. Fuel forms satisfy multiple functions within the reactor core such as providing fissile fuel, moderating material, and structural components, as well as ensuring adequate cooling and sufficient operational life. Therefore, the performance of a nuclear thermal rocket is directly dependent on the material properties and design of nuclear fuels. Designers today can take advantage of prior historical designs and create more efficient and higher performing systems for the future. This report summarizes the development efforts to date on NTP fuels and fuel forms both by the U.S. and former Soviet Union as a historical reference compendium for future use.


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