The Pentagon’s research and development arm on Monday awarded a trio of business with agreements to develop and show a nuclear-based propulsion system on a spacecraft in orbit by 2025.
General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin won the Defense Advanced Research Study Projects Agency or DARPA awards, under the company’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations program or DRACO.
The goal of the program is deceptively simple: Utilize a nuclear thermal propulsion system to power a spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit.
The Pentagon’s research study and advancement firm says a nuclear powered spacecraft has the prospective to achieve both the high power of an chemical-based propulsion system and the high effectiveness of an electrical-powered system.
” This mix would give a DRACO spacecraft greater dexterity to execute the Department of Defense’s core tenet of rapid maneuver in cislunar area (in between the Earth and moon),” the company said.
The contracts granted to the business are for the very first 18-month stage of the program, with 2 tracks.
In Track A, General Atomics will tackle the initial design of a nuclear thermal reactor and the idea for a propulsion subsystem, with its agreement worth $22.2 million.
In Track B, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin– awarded $2.5 million and $2.9 million, respectively– will each develop spacecraft idea designs.
” Nuclear thermal propulsion is a transformative innovation that will drastically change the method spacecraft will operate, increasing dexterity and permitting more effective travel to Mars and beyond in far less time than traditional propulsion systems,” Costs Pratt, Lockheed Martin Space’s manager of Human Expedition Advanced Programs, stated in a statement to CNBC. “A great deal of work was done on nuclear propulsion in previous decades and we’ll utilize that knowledge as we integrate it with modern-day digital engineering modern spacecraft style and imagination to advance this new capability.”
While the defense giant is often concentrated on this type of Pentagon work, this award represents a new nationwide security agreement for Bezos’ business– which is concentrated on a variety of space projects, including its tourism rocket New Shepard, a huge recyclable rocket called New Glenn, and an astronaut lunar lander for NASA.