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NASA, DOE Pick 3 Companies for Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Reactor Design Contracts

NASA and the Department of Energy have selected BWX Technologies, General Atomics and Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies to further develop their reactor design concepts for a nuclear thermal propulsion system that could be used in future deep space exploration missions.

Each company will receive a potential 12-year, $5 million contract from DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory for their reactor design development efforts, NASA said Tuesday.

BWXT will work with Lockheed Martin on its reactor design concept. 

General Atomics’ electromagnetic systems business will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne and X-energy on the project. 

Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies’ project partners include Blue Origin, General Electric’s Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Research divisions, Materion, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. and Framatome.

“These design contracts are an important step towards tangible reactor hardware that could one day propel new missions and exciting discoveries,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s space technology mission directorate.

INL will perform design reviews and offer recommendations to NASA following the completion of contract work. The space agency will establish the foundation for future tech design and development initiatives using data from INL.

Battelle Energy Alliance, which operates the national lab for DOE, led the solicitation, assessment and procurement efforts using appropriations for fiscal year 2021.

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