The Draco project by Lockheed Martin is designed for travel to Mars as well as running missions between Earth and the Moon.
Chemical propulsion has long been the standard for spaceflight, but for humans to reach Mars, we’ll need a much more powerful and efficient propulsion. Nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) engines offer thrust as high as conventional chemical propulsion with much higher efficiency.
Lockheed Martin has won a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and demonstrate a nuclear-powered spacecraft under a project called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO). The project will represent a rapid advancement in propulsion technology to benefit exploration and national defense.
DARPA partnered with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate on the DRACO project, as both agencies will benefit from this leading-edge technology.
The in-space flight demonstration of a nuclear thermal rocket engine vehicle will take place no later than 2027.
Images credit Lockheed Martin
source Lockheed Martin