Our goal: to facilitate the use of fission reactors in space.
KRUSTY heat pipes glowing at 800°C
The SpaceNukes founders were also at the root of today’s worldwide interest in microreactors; i.e. special purpose reactors in the range of 100kW to 10 MW to for various civilian or defense applications. From 2010 to 2012, we researched and presented various concepts for deployable reactors, based on our high-power Mars surface reactors, for defense locations, disaster relief, mining operations, etc. Over the years we proposed our ideas to DARPA, DOE and the Defense Science Board, which ultimately led to significant interest today. We plan continue to investigate “deployable” reactors as our company grows.
SpaceNukes believes that the path to developing any new fission power system, whether it be for Earth or space, must be rooted in “integrated simplicity”. Integrated simplicity is an approach to minimize the integrated risk of successful development; including, materials, manufacturing, procurement, design, modeling, assembly, project management, safety and regulatory approvals, and steady-state and dynamic performance. Our team has the experience and demonstrated ability to utilize this approach efficiently and effectively.
The development of space fission power systems is unique from any other advanced technology. Testing of new nuclear systems has become almost prohibitively cumbersome and expensive, and testing of systems that operate in space present their own unique challenges. The combination of these two, nuclear and space, puts space reactors in an unfortunate class of their own. For a traditionally engineered system, the development approach can allow significant uncertainty in system performance, and a vigorous test program can be used flush out performance issues and ultimately optimize performance. This allows the design and development process to focus on hardware engineering: materials, procurement, fabrication, component development and assembly. Alternatively, due to the cost and risk of testing, a space fission system must designed so that a system “test” is in effect a "demonstration”, with as few uncertainties and unknowns as practically possible.
Engineers encase KRUSTY in vacuum chamber
The dynamic performance of the system, e.g. startup, transients, failure response, must be completely integrated into the development-risk profile from day 1. SpaceNukes is fully attuned and uniquely qualified to do this, because of the experience and expertise required to understand and model nuclear system dynamics; i.e. the interplay between the nuclear, thermal-hydraulic, and structural aspects of the power system.
At SpaceNukes, we also strive to avoid the common mistake of overpromising what can be realistically done, or encouraging overambitious government programs by chasing funding when the chance of ultimate success is minimal. Our goal is to apply ourselves only to projects which have a real chance of technical success, and in so doing continue to build and maintain the reputation of our company.
Space Nuclear Power Corporation, SpaceNukes, was founded on two fundamental beliefs: 1) the future of humankind is inexorably linked to our exploration and expansion into space, and 2) nuclear power is essential to our future, on Earth and in space. Our goal is to enable the successful deployment of space nuclear systems on the Moon, Mars, outer planets, or anywhere solar power or other sources are not practical.
Progress in space fission reactors was stagnant for 50+ years, until our founders envisioned, formulated, designed, and successfully executed the DUFF and KRUSTY projects: our founders formed the core team the successful reactor tests and the Kilopower project. This team combined unparalleled technical expertise, innovative thinking, and unabashed enthusiasm to end decades of failed advanced reactor programs, for both space and terrestrial application.