NASA Awards Three Contracts for Concept Studies of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Reactors Written 14 July 2021


Artist's rendering of a Bimodal Nuclear Thermal Transfer Vehicle "Copernicus" in LEO | John Frassanito & Associates/NASA; Wikipedia; Public Domain

Space News reports that NASA has selected three companies for one-year $5 million contracts “to perform concept studies of nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) reactors while making plans to fund similar studies for nuclear surface power systems.” NASA contracted BWX Technologies, which will work with Lockheed Martin; General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, which will work with X-energy and Aerojet Rocketdyne; and Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies, which will work “with its parent company, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, as well as Blue Origin, General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy, General Electric Research, Framatome and Materion.” All three teams will work to develop a reactor that “would heat up a propellant such as liquid hydrogen, generating thrust at far higher efficiencies than conventional propulsion systems and enabling shorter transit times for missions to Mars.” Each team “will mature their reactor designs to ‘30% fidelity’ of the final design, demonstrating that it is feasible and estimating the cost and schedule to build a prototype reactor.” 
Full Story (Space News)