Defense Innovation Unit
DIU Issues Solicitation for Small Nuclear-Powered Space Engines
According to a recently posted DIU solicitation, the Department of Defense is specifically looking for commercial solutions for “lightweight, portable, and long-duration power sources” that can provide propulsion and on-station power to enable sensing and communication on small and medium-sized spacecraft.
The DIU noted that new DOD space missions require advanced propulsion technology that enables high delta-V and electrical power to payloads while maintaining fuel efficiency, SpaceNews reported.
The DOD’s innovation center noted that competitive proposals must address the department’s desired product capabilities and must show credible manufacturing, regulatory and licensing paths toward prototype development, which is expected to be within three to five years.
In terms of power, the DIU wants a commercial solution that has high specific energy with a system lifetime above the minimum power threshold of three years.
Additional capabilities that the agency wants include providing heat to spacecraft systems in shadowed environments, minimizing radiation exposure to ground personnel when integrating the spacecraft and supporting the “feasible” manufacturing of radioactive material fuel elements and safety characteristics.
The DIU will accept submissions from industry until Sept. 23.
The solicitation states that the DIU plans to award contracts within 60 to 90 days upon receipt of all of the proposals.
The agency will issue other transaction contracts, under which the U.S. government and the selected companies agree to invest in the project.
The selected organizations for the OT awards will conduct laboratory-based prototype testing, the DIU said in the solicitation.
Tags: advanced propulsion technology beyond Earth orbit Defense Innovation Unit Department of Defense DIU DoD fuel elements nuclear propulsion power sources prototype development small spacecraft space space missions SpaceNews