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Affordable Development and Optimization of CERMET Fuels for NTP Ground TestingCERMET fuel materials for Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) are currently being developed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. The work is part of NASA's Advanced Space Exploration Systems Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (NCPS) Project. The goal of the FY12-14 project is to address critical NTP technology challenges and programmatic issues to establish confidence in the affordability and viability of an NTP system. A key enabling technology for an NCPS system is the fabrication of a stable high temperature nuclear fuel form. Although much of the technology was demonstrated during previous programs, there are currently no qualified fuel materials or processes. The work at MSFC is focused on developing critical materials and process technologies for manufacturing robust, full-scale CERMET fuels. Prototypical samples are being fabricated and tested in flowing hot hydrogen to understand processing and performance relationships. As part of this initial demonstration task, a final full scale element test will be performed to validate robust designs. The next phase of the project will focus on continued development and optimization of the fuel materials to enable future ground testing. The purpose of this paper is to provide a detailed overview of the CERMET fuel materials development plan. The overall CERMET fuel development path is shown in Figure 2. The activities begin prior to ATP for a ground reactor or engine system test and include materials and process optimization, hot hydrogen screening, material property testing, and irradiation testing. The goal of the development is to increase the maturity of the fuel form and reduce risk. One of the main accomplishmens of the current AES FY12-14 project was to develop dedicated laboratories at MSFC for the fabrication and testing of full length fuel elements. This capability will enable affordable, near term development and optimization of the CERMET fuels for future ground testing. Figure 2 provides a timeline of the development and optimization tasks for the AES FY15-17 follow on program.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Hickman, Robert R. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Broadway, Jeramie W. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Mireles, Omar R. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
July 8, 2014
Publication Date
February 24, 2014
Subject Category
Propellants and Fuels
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS) 2014(Stennis Space Center, MS)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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