Advances in the space race continue, and now the NASA and DARPA have teamed up to create a sophisticated rocket based on nuclear energy, which would be launched in 2027 and is scheduled to orbit for no less than 300 years.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have partnered to develop rocket technologies that use nuclear energy for propulsion.
Because the amount of thrust a conventional rocket can generate is limited by fuels such as kerosene and hydrogen, the use of nuclear energy could favor this push to reach higher levels in space.
NASA’s announcement, made as part of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) SciTech forum, explained that recent advances in nuclear technology allow them to take more risks.
They add that the switch to High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) has a higher proportion of enriched uranium in the fuel mix compared to fuel typically used in light water nuclear reactors.
NASA, which has signed an agreement with DARPAdelegates to them the responsibility of demonstrating nuclear propulsion in space.
With this, NASA will be responsible for designing what it calls nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) technology and the NRT engine. It includes building and developing the nuclear reactor, all aspects of the engine, testing the engine on the ground, helping DARPA acquire HALEU, and integrating it into vehicles.
This NASA-developed engine will be integrated into a thruster, and this is where DARPA comes in. This launch vehicle is called the experimental NTR and DARPA will integrate the launch vehicle into the X-NTRV.
A safe and lasting advance
Stefanie Tompkinsdirector of DARPA, points out that in terms of safety, this system will be designed so that the engine does not work until it reaches space and will use an orbit that will not degrade until the engine is safe to enter space again. the earth.
The engine does not emit any radioactive exhaust and only gaseous hydrogen will come out of a nozzle, they collect at wccftech.
“It is vitally important for us to reach a high enough altitude that the material will no longer be radioactive when it properly re-enters. That is essential for us. That’s kind of a minimum at the 700-kilometer threshold, and maybe up to 2,000 kilometers, which is way above the International Space Station,” he clarifies.