Memorandum on the National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion (Space Policy Directive-6)

Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

Space Policy Directive-6

MEMORANDUM FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT
THE SECRETARY OF STATE
THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
THE SECRETARY OF ENERGY
THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT
AND BUDGET
THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL
SECURITY AFFAIRS
THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS
AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY POLICY

SUBJECT: National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power
and Propulsion

Section 1. Policy. The ability to use space nuclear power and propulsion (SNPP) systems safely, securely, and sustainably is vital to maintaining and advancing United States dominance and strategic leadership in space. SNPP systems include radioisotope power systems (RPSs) and fission reactors used for power or propulsion in spacecraft, rovers, and other surface elements. SNPP systems can allow operation of such elements in environments in which solar and chemical power are inadequate. They can produce more power at lower mass and volume compared to other energy sources, thereby enabling persistent presence and operations. SNPP systems also can shorten transit times for crewed and robotic spacecraft, thereby reducing radiation exposure in harsh space environments.

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Nuclear Tech in Space: What’s on the Horizon?

Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

La Grange Park, Ill. (American Nuclear Society PR) — NASA aims to develop nuclear technologies for two space applications: propulsion and surface power. Both can make planned NASA missions to the moon more agile and more ambitious, and both are being developed with future crewed missions to Mars in mind. Like advanced reactors here on Earth, space nuclear technologies have an accelerated timeline for deployment in this decade.

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6 Technologies NASA is Advancing to Send Humans to Mars

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Mars is an obvious source of inspiration for science fiction stories. It is familiar and well-studied, yet different and far enough away to compel otherworldly adventures. NASA has its sights on the Red Planet for many of the same reasons.

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NASA Contracts with BWXT Nuclear Energy to Advance Nuclear Thermal Propulsion

Credit: NASA

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As NASA pursues innovative, cost-effective alternatives to conventional propulsion technologies to forge new paths into the solar system, researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, say nuclear thermal propulsion technologies are more promising than ever, and have contracted with BWXT Nuclear Energy, Inc. of Lynchburg, Virginia, to further advance and refine those concepts.

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