DARPA awards 3 companies contracts for nuclear spacecraft by 2025

DARPA awards 3 companies contracts for nuclear spacecraft by 2025
© Getty Images

The Department of Defense’s research and development agency awarded contracts to three companies to build a nuclear spacecraft by 2025.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on Monday that it selected Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosAmazon employees petition company to investigate allegations of discrimination The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel The Hill's Morning Report - Infrastructure vote fails; partisan feud erupts over Jan. 6 panel MORE’s Blue Origin, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program.

General Atomics’s contract is worth $22 million, Blue Origin’s is worth $2.5 million and Lockheed Martin’s will be worth $2.9 million, a DARPA spokesperson confirmed to The Hill.


DRACO’s goal is to build a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system above low Earth orbit in 2025.

DARPA said the system will have high thrust-to-weight ratios similar to chemical propulsion and have the high propellant efficiency of electric systems.

The companies will participate in the first phase of the program, which will last for 18 months.

Maj Nathan Greiner, USAF, program manager for DRACO, said in a statement that the phase is a “risk reduction effort that will enable us to sprint toward an on-orbit demonstration in later phases.”

General Atomics will work on Track A, which is designing an NTP reactor and concept for a propulsion system. Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin will work in Track B, developing an Operational System spacecraft concept and designing a Demonstration System concept.