DARPA alternatives Lockheed Martin and Blue Origin to construct nuclear spacecraft

The businesses will paintings with General Atomics to layout an agile rocket for cislunar missions

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Nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) structures may want to maintain the important thing to manned missions into the deep areas. After sidelining the tech in the 70s because of price range constraints, NASA recently returned to NTP as a way of having human beings to Mars. The gadget, which goes via way of means of moving warmness from a nuclear reactor to a liquid propellant to generate thrust, offers two times the propellant performance of chemical rockets.

To accelerate the tempo of NTP tech development, the Pentagons Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected a trio of businesses to construct and show a nuclear-primarily based totally propulsion gadget on a spacecraft above low-Earth orbit via way of means of 2025. The high contractors consist of Jeff Bezos’s personal area project Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, and General Atomics.

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Over the subsequent 18 months, section 1 of the DRACO (Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations) software will see the businesses cut up throughout tracks to expand a craft that has the capacity to hastily maneuver in the cislunar area (among the Earth and the moon). The award win marks a brand new countrywide protection agreement for Blue Origin, in accordance with CNBC, even as its DRACO opposite numbers are regulars on the protection circuit.

Bezos corporation and Lockheed Martin — granted $2.five million and $2.nine million, respectively — will now paintings on competing designs for an operational spacecraft powered via way of means of an NTP gadget. DARPA presented General Atomics $22 million to expand the nuclear reactor.

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“The performer groups have proven competencies to expand and install superior reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft structures,” stated Maj. Nathan Greiner, United States Air Force, software supervisor for DRACO. “The NTP generation we are seeking to expand and show below the DRACO software pursuits to be foundational to destiny operations in the area.”

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