Mission To Mars, NASA Will Use Nuclear Power in 2027

World Tekhno.com – The United States plans to test a nuclear fission-powered spacecraft engine in 2027. The U.S. space agency NASA calls the project part of a long-term effort to demonstrate more efficient methods to propel astronauts to Mars in the future.

“NASA will partner with the U.S. military research and development agency, DARPA, to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion engine and launch it into space in 2027,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at a conference in National Harbor, Md. on Tuesday, Jan. 24. , 2023 .

NASA has studied for decades the concept of nuclear thermal propulsion, which introduces heat from a nuclear fission reactor into a hydrogen propellant to provide propulsion that is believed to be far more efficient than traditional chemical-based rocket engines.

NASA officials see nuclear thermal propulsion as essential for sending humans to places other than the Moon and farther into space. As engineers see it, a trip to Mars from Earth using this technology could take about four months, rather than the nine months with conventional chemical engines.

That estimate would substantially reduce the time astronauts are exposed to space radiation. It would also require fewer supplies, such as food and other cargo, during a trip to Mars.

“If we have a faster trip for humans, it’s a safer trip,” NASA Deputy Administrator and former astronaut Pam Melroy said Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

The demonstration planned for 2027 is part of the DARPA (U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) research program in which NASA now participates. The project could also shed light on the ambitions of the U.S. Space Force, which officials say plans to deploy a nuclear reactor-powered spacecraft capable of propelling other satellites into near-moon orbits.

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DARPA in 2021 is funding General Atomics, aerospace company Lockheed Martin and Blue Origin to study spacecraft and nuclear reactor designs. Program manager Tabitha Dodson said in an interview that around March 2022, the agency will select a company to build a nuclear spacecraft for the 2027 demonstration.

The joint budget for the NASA-DARPA effort is USD $110 million or about IDR 1.6 billion for fiscal 2023 and is expected to reach hundreds of millions of dollars more by 2027. ***

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