The Department of Prospective Research Projects of the US Department of Defense (DARPA) plans to bring a prototype to a low near-earth orbit with a nuclear thermal tag to a low near-earth orbit.
The technology of chemical missiles has long been approaching the theoretical limits of their capabilities. Another option is the devices with electrical engines, but despite the high efficiency, they have low craving, which worsens maneuverability in space. Now Darpa decided to develop a power plant with a nuclear reactor.
As part of the DRACO project, the Agency has already entered into contracts with Gryphon Technologies, General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin. The contractors will engage in the creation of a rocket with a nuclear heat type, in which fuel with a high content of low-enriched uranium will be used. The system will heat it up to extreme temperatures in several tens of thousands of degrees, and work five times more efficiently chemical.
Gryphon Technologies and General Atomics are together responsible for the engine, and Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin independently need to develop an improved spacecraft design under a new concept. According to the Darpa plan, the first demonstrations should take place in 2025.
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