(ORDO NEWS) — The U.S. government’s Defense Innovation Units (DIU) aims to test and deploy nuclear power systems in space by 2027.
Companies will test technologies that will give small spacecraft the ability to maneuver in lunar space.
DIU, an organization under the US Department of Defense, is focused on deploying and scaling commercial technology across the US military.
The organization is currently working to accelerate ground and flight testing of nuclear propulsion prototypes: next-generation compact fusion and radioisotope concepts.
The organization donated two prototypes of other contracts to Ultra Safe Nuclear and Avalanche Energy to demonstrate the next generation of nuclear propulsion and spacecraft power capabilities.
These companies will test technologies that will give spacecraft the ability to maneuver in lunar space and enable powerful payloads for space missions.
The nuclear pilot will demonstrate a rechargeable encapsulated nuclear radioisotope battery (called EmberCore) for propulsion and power applications in space.
It will be able to scale up to 10 times the power level of plutonium systems and provide more than 1 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of power with just a few kilograms of fuel.
In addition, Avalanche Energy has developed a device called the Orbitron, which uses electrostatic fields to capture fusion ions, combined with magnetron electron confinement circuitry to overcome charge density limitations.
Fusion produces energetic particles that generate heat or electricity that can power a highly efficient propulsion system.
“Future missions will require greater maneuverability and power to enhance the capabilities of spacecraft, allowing for orbital modifications, methods for controlling or facilitating deorbits, transferring materials between orbits,” the organization said in a statement.
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is also working on a project to build and assemble a nuclear thermal rocket engine that could be ready by 2026.
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