General Atomics, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and Blue Origin have received contracts to conduct risk reduction efforts for the first phase of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program aiming to build and demonstrate nuclear thermal propulsion technology.
The three companies will aim to design propulsion systems and spacecraft concepts for a potential demonstration above low Earth orbit sometime in 2025, the agency said Monday.
DARPA intends for the NTP technology to exhibit a thrust-to-weight ratio that is similar to that of space-based chemical propulsion mechanisms and a high rate of electric propellant efficiency.
General Atomics will develop reactor technology under the program’s Track A, while Lockheed and Blue Origin will separately conceptualize operational and demonstration system spacecraft under Track B.
The agency expects Phase 1 to take place over an 18-month period and serve as a precursor to detailed design, fabrication and demonstration activities.