DARPA is creating nuclear rockets for space, and looking for ideas

The U.S. Department of Defense's DARPA is developing nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) engines for its DRACO program in cislunar space.

Published May 11, 2022 4:01 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, May 31 2022 7:08 PM CDT
1 minute & 21 seconds read time

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals for nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) engines.

DARPA is creating nuclear rockets for space, and looking for ideas 01 | TweakTown.com

The proposals are for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, covering the design, development, fabrication, and assembly of the engines. The program's goal is to execute a flight demonstration using nuclear thermal propulsion in space in the fiscal year 2026.

Phase 1 of the program focused on preliminary designs for the rocket engine reactor and a conceptual in-orbit demonstration system, and proposals are being sought for Phases 2 and 3. Phase 2 will see the completion of designs for a demonstration system and the validation of an NTR flight engine, while Phase 3 will see the demonstration system built to handle a full-power, on-orbit flight test and the execution of that test.

"The United States employs maneuver to maintain advantages in the land, sea, and air domains. However, maneuver is more challenging in space due to propulsion system limitations. To maintain technological superiority in space, the United States requires leap-ahead propulsion technology that the DRACO program will provide," said Major Nathan Greiner, program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office.

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NEWS SOURCES:space.com, darpa.mil, sam.gov

Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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