In the future, nuclear reactors will enhance the range of space travel.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA have selected Lockheed Martin and BWX Technologies to develop an experimental nuclear propulsion system that could offer a more efficient source of energy for future orbital maneuvers and spacecraft bound for Mars, as reported by Sarbaz.kz citing Defensenews.
These companies were chosen from a pool of contractors that included General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies. It is envisioned that the companies will collaborate on creating a demonstrative prototype – Lockheed will design a spacecraft capable of carrying a nuclear reactor and the fuel developed by BWXT for NASA.
The primary objective is to launch a nuclear thermal rocket engine into orbit by 2027. In the foreseeable future, nuclear reactors are expected to extend the range of space travel and significantly accelerate human expeditions to Mars.
Nuclear thermal rockets resemble ground-based systems that rely on atomic fission or splitting to generate electricity. The heat produced in this process can convert liquid rocket fuel into gas, enabling more efficient maneuverability in space.
In recent years, support for nuclear propulsion systems in Congress has grown, as legislators overseeing NASA allocate more resources to engine development efforts.