Defense Department seeks nuclear propulsion for small spacecraft

The US Defense Department’s ambitions beyond Earth just grew a little clearer. SpaceNews has learned the department recently put out a call for privately-made nuclear propulsion systems that could power small- and mid-sized spacecraft. The DoD wants to launch missions venturing beyond Earth orbit, and existing electric and solar spacecraft are neither suitable for that job nor suitable to smaller vehicles, the department’s Defense Innovation Unit said.

The nuclear propulsion system will ideally offer “high delta-V” (above 33ft/s) while scaling down to less than 2,000kg in dry mass (4,409lbs on Earth). On top of providing electricity for the payload, the technology will hopefully keep the spacecraft warm when in

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