Establishing the Feasibility of the Centrifugal Nuclear Thermal Rocket

Dale Thomas, Michael Houts, William Walters, Keith Hollingsworth, Robert Frederick, Jason Cassibry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

16 Scopus citations


The Centrifugal Nuclear Thermal Rocket (CNTR) is a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) concept designed to heat propellant directly by the reactor fuel. The primary difference between the CNTR concept and traditional NTP systems is that rather than using traditional solid fuel elements, the CNTR uses liquid fuel with the liquid contained in rotating cylinders by centrifugal force. If the concept can be successfully realized, the CNTR would have a high specific impulse (~1800 s) at high thrust, which may enable viable near-term human Mars exploration by reducing round-trip times to ~420 days. The CNTR could also use storable propellants such as ammonia, methane, or hydrazine at an Isp of ~900 s, enabling long-term in-space storage of a dormant system. Significant engineering challenges must be addressed to establish the technical viability of the CNTR, and the plan for addressing these engineering challenges is the subject of this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum, 2021
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
ISBN (Print)9781624106118
StatePublished - 2021
EventAIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum, 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Aug 9 2021Aug 11 2021

Publication series

NameAIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum, 2021


ConferenceAIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum, 2021
CityVirtual, Online

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Energy
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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