NASA, DARPA Experts to Discuss Nuclear Rocket Program Developments

NASA (July 26, 2023) ⇒ Experts from NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will hold a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 26, to discuss the latest developments in the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on NASA’s website.

Artist concept of Demonstration for Rocket to Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) spacecraft, which will demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine. Nuclear thermal propulsion technology could be used for future NASA crewed missions to Mars. Credits: DARPA

The media teleconference follows DARPA’s announcement that design and fabrication of the DRACO nuclear-powered rocket will begin under a new agreement between DARPA and Lockheed Martin. BWX Technologies also will play a role in the program by creating the nuclear fission reactor that will power the rocket engine.

Nuclear propulsion is a key capability on NASA’s roadmap to send astronauts to Mars. A nuclear-powered rocket would enable faster trips to the Red Planet, making missions less complex and safer for crew. This type of engine requires significantly less propellant than chemical rockets, so missions would be able to carry additional scientific equipment.

Participants in the teleconference include:

  • Anthony Calomino, space nuclear technologies portfolio manager, NASA
  • Tabitha Dodson, DRACO program manager, DARPA
  • Kirk Shireman, vice president, Lockheed Martin Lunar Exploration Campaigns
  • Joe Miller, president, BWXT Advanced Technologies

To learn more about NASA’s work on the DRACO program, visit:

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