Yesterday, it was announced that the American aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin will be responsible for building the spacecraft DRACO (Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations), a vehicle that NASA, together with the United States military’s research division DARPA, presented earlier this year.


Lockheed Martin will also enlist the help of the American nuclear technology company BWX Technologies to develop the nuclear-based engine that will power DRACO on a potential future journey to Mars. The idea behind a nuclear-powered spacecraft is to enable faster trips to Mars and the moon than are currently possible. In a comment about DRACO, NASA states:

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.

By 2027, Lockheed Martin and BWX Technologies aim to showcase a prototype of the spacecraft. An illustration of how it may look can be found above. Below, there is a video clip from Lockheed Martin, released in conjunction with the confirmation that they would be building DRACO for NASA and DARPA.

Revolutionizing Nuclear Thermal Propulsion in Space with DRACO

Christopher Mansfield is a content writer at He creates, edits and manages the production of digital and print content that is consistent with the organization’s brand, style and tone....

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