Nuclear propulsion will be tested by NASA and DARPA for future missions to Mars technology demonstration in space scheduled in 2027

Nuclear propulsion will be tested by NASA and DARPA for future missions to Mars technology demonstra ...

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have announced that they will collaborate to develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine in space. This will open the door to NASA's manned missions to Mars.

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NASA and DARPA will collaborate on the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations program (DRACO or Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations). The royalty-free agreement establishes roles, responsibilities, and procedures to facilitate project development efforts.

The use of a nuclear thermal rocket will reduce the flight time, reducing the danger to astronauts. Long missions require more supplies and more reliable systems.

Using a nuclear rocket engine would also have numerous benefits. For example, it would increase the amount of work performed for scientific research and provide more power for instruments and communications.

Of course.


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A fission reactor is used to create extremely high temperatures in a nuclear thermal rocket engine. The liquid fuel is expanded and expelled through a nozzle to propel the spacecraft. Nuclear thermal rockets are three or more times more effective than conventional chemical rockets.

STMD, the NASA's nuclear thermal engineering division, will direct the technical development of a nuclear thermal engine that will be integrated with the DARPA experimental spacecraft. DARPA will manage the entire program, including missile system integration, procurement, planning, and security, as well as the overall assembly and integration of the engine with the spacecraft in 2027.

DARPA commissioned three contractors for a project to construct a nuclear power facility near space in 2021. And already in 2022, the agency announced the pursuit of contractors for the next phases of the development of a spacecraft with a nuclear power plant.

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