Space Nuclear Propulsion Is Making a Come-Back
March 29, 2019 (EIRNS)—The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is requesting $10 million in FY20 to start a “Reactor on a Rocket” program. The goal is to develop a nuclear thermal reactor system, which the U.S. had under development in the 1960s. That project was shut down when the manned Mars mission was taken off the table. According to DARPA’s budget document, the nuclear-propelled rocket will “expand the operating presence of the U.S. in space to the cislunar space volume and enhance domestic operations to a new high-ground, which is in danger of being defined by an adversary.” (Clearly, this technology will be transferrable to space exploration endeavors beyond the Moon.)
The “Implementation” section of the document states: “The program will investigate on-orbit assembly techniques to safely assemble the individual [nuclear] core element subassemblies into a full demonstration system configuration, and will perform a technology demonstration.” No dates are mentioned in this brief description.