PASADENA, Calif. — With congressional funding and industry support, nuclear thermal propulsion technology is making progress for potential use on future NASA deep space missions, although how it fits into the agency’s exploration architectures remains uncertain.
The House Appropriations Committee approved May 22 a commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill that offers $22.3 billion for NASA. That funding includes $125 million for nuclear thermal propulsion development within the agency’s space technology program, compared to an administration request for no funding.
“The bill’s investment in nuclear thermal propulsion is critical as NASA works towards the design of a flight demonstration by 2024,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), ranking member of the CJS appropriations subcommittee, during that subcommittee’s markup of the bill May 17. He offered similar comments in support of that project at the full committee markup.
The $125 million comes on top of $100 million that Congress provided in 2019, of which $70 million was earmarked for a flight demonstration by 2024. The report accompanying the House bill makes no mention of a 2024 date for a flight demonstration, but does call on NASA to develop “a multi-year plan that enables a nuclear thermal propulsion demonstration, including the timeline ...