Jeff Bezos’s space flight company Blue Origin has landed a multi-million dollar contract with the Pentagon to design a nuclear-powered rocket.
Blue Origin was awarded the $2.5 million contract yesterday, April 11. The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who gave the company the contract, is aiming to have the nuclear aircraft airborne by 2025.
This is one of the many contracts Blue Origin has been given since it was created by Bezos 21 years ago; however, this is thought to be the first national security contract it’s been given.
Lockheed Martin was also awarded a $2.9 million contract to design a craft for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO), which works under DARPA.
Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin have been given the contracts for the first 18-month phase of the programme.
The aim of DRACO is supposedly quite simple; to ‘use a nuclear thermal propulsion system to power a spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit’, CNBC reports.
According to the Pentagon‘s research and development programme, a nuclear powered spacecraft has the possibility of achieving both a chemical-based propulsion system and an electrical-powered system,. The propulsion system would give the space craft ‘high power’, while the electrical-powered system wold enable it to be highly sufficient.
DARPA further explained:
This combination would give a DRACO spacecraft greater agility to implement the Department of Defense’s core tenet of rapid maneuver in cislunar space (between the Earth and moon).
The programme has been broken down into two tracks: Track A will tackle the preliminary design of a nuclear thermal reactor and the concept for a propulsion subsystem, according to CNBC, while Track B will see Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin both develop spacecraft concept designs.
Discussing the new contract, Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin Space’s manager of Human Exploration Advanced Programs, said in a statement:
Nuclear thermal propulsion is a transformative technology that will dramatically change the way spacecraft will operate, increasing agility and allowing more efficient travel to Mars and beyond in far less time than conventional propulsion systems.
A lot of work was done on nuclear propulsion in previous decades and we’ll leverage that expertise as we combine it with modern digital engineering modern spacecraft design and creativity to advance this new capability.
Blue Origin is yet to comment on its new million dollar DARPA contract.