Universities Space Research Association (USRA) Research Opportunity
The Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR) invites undergraduate and graduate level students to experience cutting-edge research in nuclear power and propulsion technologies through our prestigious Summer Fellowship Program. As a CSNR Summer Fellow, you will work as part of a team of students and with scientists at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to complete a research project of current interest to NASA in potential nuclear technology performance. The Summer Fellows program allows participants to experience a real research environment, to learn from top-notch nuclear scientists, and to preview careers in research.
Summer 2012 topics:
Areas of Research:
- Mars Hopper prototype development – The CSNR is developing a light-weight, radioisotope-powered Mars Hopper that is intended to fly 7 km every 7 days for 7 years. Successful applicants will assist the CSNR Mars Hopper team with computational modeling of a high temperature subscale core testing apparatus. The test apparatus is being built to validate computational models and measure heat transfer rates from a variety of fuel element geometries.
- Nuclear Thermal Rocket – The tungsten cermet fuel being developed at the CSNR for application in the nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) offers the potential for very high performance. The team will design an advanced concept NTR striving to achieve a thrust-to-weight ratio over 10 and specific impulse of near 1000 s. Radiation fields prior to and during launch will be calculated using MCNPX or SERPENT codes.
- Interplanetary Railroad – Interplanetary launches using chemical rockets expend most of their mass as exhaust. In order to establish a human outpost on Mars, a significant number of chemical rocket launches may be required to support the settlement. The amount of propellant required for the launches may become prohibitively expensive. A possible alternative is to establish an electromagnetic launcher on the lunar surface to perform the interplanetary transfer, requiring electricity but no propellant. The team will examine an exploration architecture that compares the cost of launching missions to Mars using NTRs from Low Earth Orbit with the cost of launching from the moon using an electromagnetic rail system.
- Low mass power source – The CSNR continues to pursue the design of low mass power sources for space exploration. Past Fellows have examined high performance dynamic systems that reduced the specific mass from the 150 kg/kWe of the current state of the art down to 15 kg/kWe. The team will examine the potential of using radioactive sources directly embedded in p,n junctions or embedded in fluorescent media coupled to PV cells to produce a low-mass, no-moving-part power supply.
- The roughly 10-week program runs from May 2012 to August 2012.
- Fellows will receive a weekly stipend to cover living expenses of $500, $600, and $700, for undergraduate, master's level, and PhD level students, respectively.
- Assistance with travel expenses to a maximum of $1000 is also included.
- The CSNR intends to subsidize partial or full housing expenses depending on funding availability.
Funding for the Summer Fellowship program has not yet been finalized. The number of students ultimately selected will depend on the final funding level to the CSNR.
Application Deadline is March 9, 2012.
The application form can be downloaded from: http://www.csnr.usra.edu/.
USRA Point of Contact:
Center for Space Nuclear Research
995 University Blvd.
Idaho Falls, ID 83415-3553