NASA and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have selected Lockheed Martin and BWX Technologies to move forward with development of a nuclear thermal rocket, or NTR, that could blaze a trail for future missions to the moon and Mars.
The Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, is slated for launch in 2027.
“The DRACO program aims to give the nation leap-ahead propulsion capability,” Tabitha Dodson, DARPA’s program manager for the effort, said today in a news release. “An NTR achieves high thrust similar to in-space chemical propulsion but is two to three times more efficient. With a successful demonstration, we could significantly advance humanity’s means for going faster and farther in space and pave the way for the future deployment for all fission-based nuclear space technologies.”
Dodson told reporters that NASA and DARPA will go 50-50 on the $499 million cost of the project. The two agencies have been working together on the rocket development effort since January.