DARPA awards 3 deals for work on nuclear propulsion system
by Christen Mccurdy
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 15, 2021
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded three contracts this week to design a nuclear thermal propulsion system that will operate above low Earth orbit in 2025.
General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin are the prime contractors for the deal, according to a DARPA press release.
The Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program has the potential to achieve rapid maneuver in space, which has been challenging because current electric and chemical space propulsion systems have drawbacks in thrust-to-weight and propellent efficiency, respectively, according to the agency.
"This first phase of the DRACO program is a risk reduction effort that will enable us to sprint toward an on-orbit demonstration in later phases," said Maj. Nathan Greiner, USAF, program manager for DRACO, said in the release.
The first phase of the program will last 18 months and consist of two tracks: Track A, which will entail the preliminary design of an NTP reactor and propulsion subsystem concept, and Track B, which will produce an Operational System spacecraft concept to meet mission objectives and design a Demonstration System spacecraft concept.
General Atomics will work on Track A, and Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin will independently perform the Track B work to develop OS and DS spacecraft designs.
Phase 1 is expected to inform follow-on phases for more detailed design, fabrication and on-orbit demonstration work, DARPA said.
Dollar amounts for the Blue Origin and Lockheed deals were not clear, but General Atomics' contract was for $22.2 million, according to a recent Pentagon announcement.
Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engine completes final acceptance test for Delta 4 Heavy
Stennis Space Center MS (SPX) Apr 15, 2021
The world's most powerful hydrogen-fueled rocket engine built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-68A, has completed its final hot-fire acceptance test for use on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle on the B-1 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. ULA's Delta IV Heavy rocket uses three Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engines; one on each of its three common booster cores to launch the nation's most critical spacecraft into orbit. The three RS-68A engines combine ... read more
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