Nuclear technologies have supported space explorations with the development of radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) and heating units (RHUs) in the first space exploration era. These technologies will not be sufficient to support a new era of ambitious and exciting human exploration missions, which requires new nuclear technologies for cis-lunar and interplanetary human missions, permanent mission on the Moon and Mars surface, and extraction of local resources on the Moon, Mars, and Near-Earth Asteroids. The recent development on fission surface power systems and nuclear microreactors, nuclear thermal and electric propulsion will meet the power and propulsion requirements of a new space exploration era. However, there is a need to address some key challenges on the Instrumentation and Control (I&C) systems before deploying these technologies. This panel discussion will present challenges and opportunities for development of instrumentation and Control (I&C) systems in nuclear space technologies. International experts from academia and industry will discuss the state of the art and further development required in the field of I&C to support the use of nuclear technologies for space exploration. _________________________________________________________________________________________ About the Panelists: Dr. N. Dianne Bull Ezell is the group leader of the Nuclear and Extreme Environment Measurement Group, in the Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle Division, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She completed a Ph.D. in 2016 focusing on signal processing of EMI rejection for Johnson Noise Thermometry, funded by the Small Modular Reactor Program. Her research interests are harsh environment experiments, system architecture and integration, advanced instrumentation development for nuclear systems, and low-noise front-end rad-hard electronics. She has supported the Instrumentation and Controls technology maturation program under NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in support of Space Nuclear Propulsion since 2018. Dianne became PI of the program at ORNL in 2022, overseeing the development of a non-nuclear instrumentation and autonomous controls testbed user facility, high-temperature irradiation testbed, and dynamic system modeling and simulation of NTP integrated engine. Michael Schoenfeld is the Nuclear Systems Team Lead at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Dave Malarik is the Manager of Electrical Instrumentation & Control (I&C) for X-Energy’s Government Research & Development division. The Government R&D division focuses on development of the X-Mobile microreactor, the lunar Fission Surface Power program through IX (joint venture between Intuitive Machines & X-Energy), and other R&D efforts. Dave has a bachelor’s degree in computer & Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Geneva College along with PMP and Six Sigma certifications. Dave is closing in on 20 years of experience in the nuclear industry where he has served in various positions in the I&C area focused on safety system hardware engineering for the AP1000, equipment qualification (seismic, environmental, EMI/EMC), commercial dedication, engineering management, product development, project management, and portfolio management. Dave has been part of the implementation of a broad range of I&C applications across the globe and looks to bring that experience to X-Energy to go beyond the terrestrial application of nuclear power. Dr. Anthony Case is a research scientist in the Advanced Technologies division at BWX Technologies. He received a Ph.D. in astronomy from Boston University and spent more than 15 years developing scientific spaceflight instrumentation for the measurement of charged particles, including as the deputy Principal Investigator for the plasma instrumentation on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. His current work focuses on the development of instrumentation and control systems for BWXT’s space nuclear products.


  • N. Dianne B. Ezell (ORNL)
  • Michael Schoenfeld (NASA)
  • Dave Malarik (X-Energy)
  • Anthony (Tony) Case (BWX Technologies)


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