The 19-Oct-2020 Press Release Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies Delivers Advanced Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Design To NASA begins:

SEATTLE, Oct. 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USNC-Tech) has delivered a design concept to NASA as part of a study on nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) flight demonstration. NTP technology provides unprecedented high-impulse thrust performance for deep space missions such as crewed missions to the moon and Mars. The NASA-sponsored study, managed by Analytical Mechanics Associates (AMA), explored NTP concepts and designs enabling deep space travel.

Question: In NASA-speak what exactly is considered to be proper, delivered "design concept"? Is it a design that could work, or more of an outline without the details? Is there anything like a prototype delivered for testing, or at least test results, or is it strictly a paper design?

The quoted paragraph includes "a study on... NTP flight demonstration" and when I hear "study" and "demonstration" I think of different things.

See also World Nuclear News' USNC-Tech develops deep space propulsion system:

Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USNC-Tech) - a subsidiary of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) - has developed a design concept as part of NASA-funded research into nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) systems for potential use in deep space travel. The concept uses a specialised variation of USNC's proprietary fully ceramic microencapsulated, tristructural isotropic fuel, developed for use in power reactors.


1 Answer 1


"Design concept" sounds like it's Technology Readiness Level 2: "technology concept and/or application formulated". In short, what UNSC-Tech has delivered is a paper design for a rocket engine. For comparison, NERVA reached TRL 6, firing a prototype engine into a near-vacuum.


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