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US military wants nuclear rocket ideas for missions near the moon

The space agency is collaborating on the DRACO project “using non-reimbursable engagement with industry participants

Space.com, By Elizabeth Howell published 1 day ago

The U.S. military hopes to see a flight demonstration in 2026. The U.S. military is ready to take the next step in developing a nuclear rocket to help monitor Earth-moon space, an area it has deemed a high strategic priority.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced May 4 that it’s seeking proposals for the second and third phases of a project to design, develop and assemble a nuclear thermal rocket engine for an expected flight demonstration in Earth orbit by 2026.

“These propulsive capabilities will enable the United States to enhance its interests in space and to expand possibilities for NASA’s long-duration human spaceflight missions,” DARPA officials said in a statement.

The proposals will support DARPA’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, which aims to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system for use in Earth-moon space. DRACO is part of the U.S. military’s larger push to keep an eye on cislunar (Earth-moon) space as government and commercial activities increase in this sector in the coming decade…………

Phase 1 for Draco included awards in April 2021 for General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin. The phase was scheduled to last 18 months across two independent tracks. 

Track A, for General Atomics, included the preliminary design of a nuclear thermal propulsion reactor, along with a propulsion subsystem. Track B, pursued by Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin independently, aimed to create an “operational system spacecraft concept” to meet future mission objectives, including a demonstration system.

In September 2020, DARPA also awarded a $14 million task order for DRACO to Gryphon Technologies, a company in Washington, D.C. that provides engineering and technical solutions to national security organizations…………

The space agency is collaborating on the DRACO project “using non-reimbursable engagement with industry participants where technology investments have common interest to both organizations,” NASA officials wrote in the $26 billion budget request for fiscal year 2023, which was released in March. ………. https://www.space.com/darpa-nuclear-rocket-earth-moon-space

May 12, 2022 - Posted by | space travel, USA, weapons and war

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