Kelsa Benensky

Advisor/Major Professor

Steven Zinkle

Additional Advisors/Committee Members

Brian Wirth, William Weber

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2016


First conceived in the 1940s, nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) is a viable and advantageous method of in-space propulsion for crewed missions beyond low earth orbit (LEO). In NTP systems, the heat from fission is transferred to a working fluid (propellant), typically hydrogen (H2), to provide thrust to a rocket via expansion of the propellant through a nozzle. Because of inherently high thrust levels and specific impulse, NTP is considered by many as the preferred form of propulsion for future crewed missions to Mars. In order to satisfy the requirements of MSE 580, this report aims to summarize the efforts of a literature search of materials relevant to solid-core space NTP applications and their known behavior under expected operating conditions of a nuclear thermal rocket. The range of materials and their limiting performance parameters identified through previous NTP research programs are presented. Completed testing and knowledge gaps are identified.

Degree Date


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