NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a combined project to design an engine propelled by nuclear energy. It will be a part of the Mars program.
DARPA will work on developing the entire stage and the engine, including the reactor. NASA will lead the technical development of the nuclear thermal engine to be integrated with DARPA’s experimental spacecraft.
NASA said in a press release about the benefits of this project,
“Using a nuclear thermal rocket allows faster transit time, reducing risk for astronauts. Reducing transit time is key for human missions to Mars, as longer trips require more supplies and robust systems. Maturing faster, more efficient transportation technology will help NASA meet its Moon to Mars Objectives,”
It was added,
“Other benefits to space travel include increased science payload capacity and higher power for instrumentation and communication.”
Nuclear rockets are 2 to 3 times faster than chemical rockets. If this program worked, the astronauts would be on Mars within 3 months instead of 7 months.
.@NASA is working on an exciting new project with our partners at @DARPA!⁰⁰Together, we’re developing and demonstrating new advanced nuclear thermal propulsion technology, which will play a key role in future crewed missions to Mars 🚀 https://t.co/JB7so6Xfqv
— Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) January 24, 2023