Lockheed Martin has secured a $33.7 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory for the Joint Emergent Technology Supplying On-Orbit Nuclear (JETSON) initiative. The project aims to advance high-power nuclear electric power and propulsion technologies for spacecraft. Lockheed will work on developing a fission reactor that starts up in space, generating heat transferred to Stirling power converters for electricity.
This can power spacecraft payloads or electric thrusters. Lockheed Martin is collaborating with Space Nuclear Power Corp and BWX Technologies. The JETSON program is in the preliminary design review stage, with plans for a future flight experiment to enhance maneuver and power capabilities for space force operations.