NASA Partners With Pentagon For Atomic Spaceships
The U.S. Space Agency has announced that it is reviving a 1960s partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which aims to develop a nuclear-powered spacecraft for travel to the Moon and Mars.
“NASA will work with our long-term partner, DARPA, to develop and demonstrate nuclear thermal propulsion technology in 2027,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson, adding that the two institutions will ignite the future together.
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) will be responsible for technical development of the nuclear thermal engine, while the Pentagon’s research branch will be the prime contractor to develop the reactor and engine.
The future ship was designated the Demonstration Rocket or DRACO for Agile Cislunar Operations.
DARPA Director Stefanie Tompkins said the two agencies have a “long and fruitful history of collaboration”, from the Saturn V rocket used in the 1960s Apollo Moon program to satellite refueling in modern times.
Tompkins added that the DRACO program will provide further leaps in space technology in an area “critical to modern commerce, scientific exploration and national security.”
Project Orion, a joint venture between NASA and DARPA in the 1960s, designed a spaceship powered by the explosion of directed fission bombs.