By India Today Science Desk: The American space agency Nasa and the US government-led Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have announced a significant step forward in their ambitious plans for space exploration.
The two agencies have selected Lockheed Martin to design, build, and test a nuclear-powered rocket. This groundbreaking project, known as the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO), is set to test the rocket in space by 2027.
The DRACO program represents a significant leap in propulsion technology, with the potential to revolutionise space travel.
The use of nuclear propulsion could drastically reduce the time taken for a crewed mission to Mars, making it less complex and safer for astronauts.
Nuclear-powered rockets are more than twice as efficient as conventional chemical rockets, requiring significantly less propellant and offering the capacity to carry more scientific equipment.
Lockheed Martin will design, integrate, and test the spacecraft. Meanwhile, BWX Technologies, a company based in Lynchburg, Virginia, will be responsible for designing and building the nuclear fission reactor that will power the engine.
Nasa’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) will oversee the overall management and execution of the nuclear-powered DRACO engine.
Dr. Prasun Desai, acting associate administrator for STMD at Nasa Headquarters in Washington, highlighted the importance of prior investments in the commercial sector for nuclear propulsion technology. He stated, “Now, those investments are coming full circle as we work with these same companies to build the first nuclear-powered rocket to fly in space.”
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