DARPA selects performers for Phase 1 of Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program

(12 April 2021 – DARPA) DARPA has awarded contracts for the primary part of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program.

The of the DRACO program is to show a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system above low orbit in 2025. The three prime contractors are Atomics, Origin, and Lockheed Martin.

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(courtesy: DARPA)

Fast maneuver is a core tenet of contemporary Division of Protection (DoD) operations on land, at , and within the air. Nonetheless, speedy maneuver within the area area has historically been difficult as a result of electrical and chemical area propulsion have drawbacks in thrust-to-weight and propellent effectivity, respectively. DRACO’s NTP system has the potential to attain excessive thrust-to-weight ratios just like in-space chemical propulsion and method the excessive propellent effectivity of electrical programs. This mix would give a DRACO spacecraft larger agility to implement DoD’s core tenet of speedy maneuver in cislunar area (between the Earth and moon).

“The performer groups have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy superior reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft programs,” stated Maj Nathan Greiner, USAF, program supervisor for DRACO. “The NTP know-how we search to develop and show below the DRACO program goals to be foundational to future operations in area.”

Section 1 of this system will final 18 months and encompass two tracks. Observe A will entail the preliminary design of an NTP reactor and propulsion subsystem idea. Observe B will produce an Operational System (OS) spacecraft idea to satisfy mission targets and design a Demonstration System (DS) spacecraft idea. The DS can be traceable to the OS idea, however particularly give attention to demonstrating an NTP propulsion subsystem.

“This primary part of the DRACO program is a danger discount effort that may allow us to dash towards an on-orbit demonstration in later phases,” added Greiner.

Common Atomics will carry out the Observe A reactor improvement work. Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin will independently carry out the Observe B work to develop OS and DS spacecraft idea designs. DRACO’s Section 1 is anticipated to tell follow-on phases for design, fabrication, and on-orbit demonstration. Any follow-on phases can be solicited by DARPA in a future announcement.

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