The US military aims to launch a nuclear thermal missile, to strengthen its ability to observe what is happening in space Earth-Moon.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has just awarded a $ 14 million contract to Gryphon Technologies, a Washington-based company that provides engineering and technical solutions to national security organizations.
The money will support the DARPA Flexible Cislar Operations Demonstration Missile (DRACO), whose main purpose is to demonstrate nuclear heat drive (NTP) system in Earth orbit.
Connected: Concepts for propulsion of ultrafast spacecraft (images)
NTP systems use fission reactors to heat fuels such as hydrogen to extreme temperatures, then expel gas through nozzles to create thrust. This technology boasts a thrust to weight ratio of about 1
Such improvements in propulsion technology are needed to “maintain awareness of the space domain in cislinar space – the volume of space between the Earth and the Moon,” the DRACO description said.
Griffin will work to help realize this vision, using the newly allocated $ 14 million.
“We are proud to support DRACO and the development and demonstration of NTP, a significant technological advancement in space awareness efforts,” said Gryphon CEO PJ Braden. said in a statement.
DARPA is not alone, seeing big promises in NTP systems. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein praised the potential of Mars exploration technology with a crew, noting that NTP-powered spacecraft could take astronauts to the Red Planet in just three to four months – about half the time it takes for traditional chemical rockets.
“This is an absolute change in the game for what NASA is trying to achieve,” Bridenstine said during a meeting of the National Space Council last year. (NASA is working to take astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s.) “This allows us to really protect life when we talk about the dose of radiation, when we travel between Earth and Mars.”
Mike Wall is the author of the book “Searching There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate). Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.