Lockheed Martin to Develop Nuclear Propulsion Demo

NASA and DARPA have selected Lockheed Martin to work the development for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. NASA and DARPA plan on working in a join effort in order to develop and demonstrate nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) technologies that have been gaining interest throughout the space industry in recent years.

BWXT will be providing Lockheed Martin with the nuclear reactor for DRACO as well as providing the uranium fuel needed for the propulsion system. The nuclear reactor works to heat up the liquid hydrogen on board in order to provide the thrust required for the mission operations. One of the big advantages to NTP is its much greater efficiency when compared to chemical propulsion systems. Nuclear systems can be more than twice as efferent as chemical rockets (double the specific impulse). This obviously has huge implications for NASA in regards to future deep space missions.

This development and trend to work and use more nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) systems could provide an interesting opportunity for industry wide increases for cybersecurity and security systems. NASA has, throughout its history, been reluctant at times to encrypt its mission data or provide fully secure systems from a cybersecurity standpoint. Many of its science missions are for public use and the belief was that there was no reason to encrypt the data. Due to the public stigma that comes with anything nuclear and especially any nuclear powered rocket engines, I believe this could present a great scenario for NASA to revamp and increase their cybersecurity standards and protocols. This development and push for NTP systems will be an interesting situation to monitor moving forward as it could provide a great opportunity and reason for NASA to ramp up and modernize their cybersecurity solutions.