DARPA Nuclear Rocket Project Underway, Will Patrol Cislunar Space
Feb. 27, 2020 (EIRNS)—The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has begun a program to create a “nuclear thermal propulsion” rocket engine. According to the Defense Department’s FY2021 budget request, “The capability afforded by [nuclear thermal propulsion] will expand the operating presence of the U.S. in space to the cislunar volume and enhance domestic operations to a new high-ground which is in danger of being defined by the adversary.” Or, as Aviation News reports on Feb. 25 the mission is to get to operate in cislunar space, before the Chinese get there.
DARPA is carrying out design studies during FY20 with a $10 million allocation from Congress and is requesting $21 million in FY21 to begin to create components for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, program.
Strangely, it does not appear that DARPA will be working with NASA, on its DRACO project, even though NASA’s Kilopower program is a couple of years ahead, and some aspects of the civilian technology undoubtedly would be applicable in the military program.