More interesting news has emerged about the use of nuclear propulsion in the American return to the Moon and the first flight to Mars, which is expected to take place in 2024 and last until the end of the next decade.
Although the topic is not new, because we have been informing you about a completely new approach to fast travel through space via nuclear propulsion technology for about 3 years, only this year we receive more and more assurances that these are not just boasts. The Pentagon gave the green light to NASA and DARPA to develop the concept of such propulsion. The agencies started cooperation with BWX Technologies and Gryphon Technologies. They received grants in the amount of several million dollars for the development of their projects. We learn from unofficial sources that its engineers not only have ready-made designs, but the construction of the first prototypes is already underway.
Agencies and Congress have allocated $ 250 million to nuclear power development. It may not seem like much, but most of the technology has been in place since the Cold War. All you have to do is put them together, modernize them and make practical use of them. The Americans also want to use the HALEU technology for the construction of compact, local nuclear reactors.
Interestingly, there is even talk of accelerating work on their construction so that they can be used in missions to return to the moon as early as 2024. Currently, NASA has the first small reactors called Kilopower ready. The Pentagon wants to conduct the first tests of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) drive itself later this year. It is unclear and probably will not be the end of it, but most likely tests will be performed in orbit with the successor of the secret X-37B mini-shuttle, which is scheduled to go into space next year.
Soon, the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rockets will be trampled with space missions, but for NASA, the chemical propulsion used in them may not be sufficient for a quick and effective colonization of the web tutorials top Planet. For some time the agency has been increasingly interested in nuclear propulsion technologies abandoned during the war.
A nuclear engine could transform the exploration of outer space beyond recognition. Now, the probes that are sent on missions to objects in the solar system need months to reach their destination, and later even years to study them thoroughly from their orbits. Meanwhile, a nuclear engine can not only be used to give enormous speed to spacecraft, thanks to which it will take days or weeks to reach the celestial bodies, not months or years, but it will also allow them to maneuver freely, so research can be carried out much faster.
The innovative DRACO new generation nuclear engine will not emit radioactive elements in the exhaust gases. DARPA intends to produce such drives using specialized 3D printers in Earth's orbit, and later also on the Moon and Mars, to significantly reduce costs. Recently, the Pentagon announced that rockets and spaceships will also be created in space in a similar way. Everything seems to indicate that in the near future, with the development of the American Space Forces, the arms industry will move to new factories outside our planet.
There are many benefits of using technologies that were abandoned decades ago. In the case of nuclear propulsion, there will be new possibilities of carrying much heavier loads, because the rocket equipped with the DRACO propulsion weighs half as much as the standard one. DARPA plans to roll out nuclear propulsion and compact reactors in the mid-1920s and early 1930s, as plans for a first manned mission to Mars enter their decisive phase. With the help of new generation rockets, the flight to the Silver Globe will take several hours, and the flight to the Red Planet will take several or several days, not half a year.
Let us recall that NASA has already completed work on the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) project, under which the Kilopower, a compact nuclear reactor, was created. Its role will be to provide electricity to power the lunar or Martian bases and heat them. The reactor is maintenance-free, has a power of 10 kilowatts (expandable to 100 kilowatts) and is able to provide electricity to two homes for 10 years without any maintenance.