NASA is partnering with the Pentagon Research Agency to develop a nuclear-powered rocket engine in preparation for sending astronauts to Mars.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Tuesday that the US space agency will collaborate with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to “develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear thermal propulsion technology as early as 2027.”
With the help of this new technology, astronauts can travel to and from space deep space “Faster than ever before – a significant capacity to prepare for manned missions to Mars,” Nelson said in a statement.
DARPA is the research and development arm of the Pentagon and played a role in many notable innovations of the 20th century including the Internet.
NASA said thermonuclear missiles could be three or more times more efficient than conventional chemical propulsion and would reduce transit timenecessary for a final mission to Mars.
In a nuclear thermonuclear engine, a fission reactor is used to generate extremely high temperatures.
Heat is transferred from the reactor to the liquid fuel Which is then converted into a gas, which expands through a nozzle and provides thrust.
“DARPA and NASA have a long history of fruitful collaboration,” DARPA Administrator Stephanie Tompkins said, citing the Saturn V rocket that carried the first astronauts to the moon.
“The thermonuclear missile program will be essential to more efficiently and quickly deliver materials to the Moon and, eventually, people to Mars,” Tompkins said.
NASA last conducted its tests of nuclear thermo-rocket engines more than 50 years ago, but the program was abandoned due to budget cuts and Cold War tensions.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: NASA and Pentagon Develop Nuclear-Powered Rocket for Mars Flight (2023, January 24) Retrieved January 24, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-01-nasa-pentagon-nuclear-powered-rocket-mars.html
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