How has student research in nuclear thermal rockets shaped your career plans?

April 6, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear NewsMiguel Alessandro Lopez

Miguel Alessandro Lopez

At the University of Rhode Island, I initially enrolled as a candidate for an accelerated track to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, with a minor in nuclear engineering. My objective was to concentrate on reactor power design and join efforts to make nuclear energy safer, more efficient, and less stigmatized.

My plans changed after I attended a guest presentation on high-performance nuclear thermal propulsion (HP-NTP) led by Michael Houts, manager of NASA Nuclear Research at Marshall Space Flight Center. He posted his email address on one of the last slides, so I took a chance and contacted him about potential research opportunities and thesis work. As it turned out, that one little email ultimately led to four NASA-sponsored design projects at URI—two are complete, and two are in progress—as well as my thesis. My research has been on HP-NTP, specifically the centrifugal nuclear thermal rocket (CNTR) design. In that design, liquid uranium is heated to extremely high temperatures in a cylinder that is rotated between 5,000 and 7,000 revolutions per minute as liquid hydrogen passes through the center of the cylinder, where it is heated and expanded, exiting as a propellant while the liquid uranium is retained by centrifugal force.

Space needs a few good nukes

April 6, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear NewsJames Conca

We might actually be going back to the Moon . . . and then, on to Mars.

The Artemis program has been developed by NASA to accomplish this. Using innovative technologies, NASA will establish the first long-term human presence on the Moon, allowing a team of astronauts to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before.

With what is learned from the Artemis missions, NASA will take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars. This goal is for scientific discovery and the economic and technological benefits that have always come from the space program, but it will also inspire a new generation of explorers: the Artemis Generation.

IAEA launches comic book contest for teens

March 22, 2023, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The International Atomic Energy Agency is inviting teens aged 14 to 18 to submit original comic book pages depicting a space-based nuclear science experiment on agricultural seeds that the agency is conducting with the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The contest is offering prizes, including publication of the winning designs on the IAEA website, for the champion and finalists. The deadline for submissions is April 16.

Seeds in space: IAEA/FAO experiment goes the distance for better crops on earth

November 8, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft Sally Ride aboard (so named for first American woman to fly in space), launched at 5:32 a.m. EST on November 7, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket is captured just after liftoff in this still image from NASA’s live broadcast of the event.

Seeds from the joint laboratories of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are onboard a Cygnus spacecraft launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia early on November 7. Now orbiting the Earth en route to the International Space Station, the seeds are part of a commercial resupply mission with a payload that includes resources to support more than 250 scientific investigations.