Pentagon Seeks Nuclear-Powered Propulsion for Satellites

A Russian satellite orbits the Earth / Photo by Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense is looking to industry for nuclear-powered propulsion technology to drive its spacecraft, freeing them from the low-energy limitations of current electric and solar-based propulsion systems.

Those traditional systems have largely served government space systems well. Once they reach their intended orbit, most satellites don’t need to move very much. Propulsion systems are generally used to readjust satellite positions when they drift out of their assigned position or to avoid collisions, while occasionally transporting those satellites to new orbits to continue their mission.

However, future U.S. military missions may require much more maneuverability and power. Future U.S. missions will need more electrical power to more frequently change orbits, transfer other objects to new orbits and operate beyond Earth’s orbit, according to a Sept. 9 solicitation from the Defense Innovation Unit, a DoD organization that helps match mature, commercial solutions to military needs.

Moreover, the shrinking size of many space systems driven by the increased capabilities of small satellites and cubesats imposes volume constraints on future propulsion systems. In other words, the military wants more power, but not by simply building bigger propulsion systems or adding more solar panels.

Read more at Defense News

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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Flothow
Flothow
5 days ago

Better think fast on how to make satellites safe from hostile nations.

Bret
Bret
5 days ago

I’ve known what they need for many decades but since I am not a greedy fat cat in Washington will they listen? Hell NO! It is really very simple to do they yield in power is over 10 times that of gunpowder! So imagine a bottle rocket only 10 times faster!

Desert Dweller
Desert Dweller
5 days ago

That’s cute. so if a satellite crashes, it would be a nuke explosion!

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
4 days ago

Use Ion drive modules.

DetroitDom
DetroitDom
4 days ago

I have an idea . . . . just tape a Democrat to either side of a satellite. Then, when the satellite requires movement, remove the gag and let the HOT AIR they expel push the satellite into position.

Of course, this will also place the Dems in an area where they aren’t an issue for society.


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