Proposed Infrastructure First to Combine Mechanical and Ultra-High Temperature Evaluations
USNC Advanced Technologies, a division of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), announces it has been selected by NASA to receive a Phase II SBIR contract to develop a proposed ultra-high temperature material testing facility. The specialized equipment could provide an essential terrestrial environment for testing the performance of materials planned for use in space-based nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) systems.
The demanding requirements for NTP systems necessitate the development of breakthrough refractory and ceramic materials capable of performing in extremely high temperatures. Phase II of the SBIR will enable USNC-Tech to construct and operate a system capable of conducting sophisticated tests to verify the performances of key materials in a prototypical environment.
“Construction of the proposed testing and evaluation infrastructure is critical to the success of USNC-Tech’s larger SNPP commercialization plans, as well as the use of NTP engines for the safe transportation of astronaut crews to Mars,” said Dr. Paolo Venneri, Executive Vice President of USNC-Tech. “We’re developing breakthrough approaches and technologies that will mimic extreme extraterrestrial environments, providing the insights required to usher in the next phase of space travel and exploration.”
The testing facilities will be capable of material evaluation in a vacuum, hydrogen, nitrogen, and argon atmospheres at temperatures up to 2,700°C (2,972°K, 4,892°F), supporting both contact and non-contact measurement methods. This dual capability could provide essential performance data for materials critical to the next phase of space travel and exploration.
“Development of this testing infrastructure is vital to the space community’s near-term NTP efforts but that’s just the start,” said Tom Crotzer, Senior Process and Hardware Development Engineer, USNC Advanced Technologies. “Evaluating key mechanical properties of NTP materials ranging from tensile strength to thermal fatigue response will be a critical capability for years to come.”