6 June 2022, Lynchburg, VA
Good day! We are making solid progress on several fronts and wanted to provide everyone with an update. Our design team is closing in on a conceptual design for the heart of Dark Fission’s nuclear thermal rocket – its reactor. Going in, we knew we had to come up with a coupled reactor and engine design that was extremely lightweight, with a thrust level appropriate for an initial space demonstration (and thorough system characterization) but scalable to higher levels without substantial rework. We’re proud of what the team’s accomplished to date – we have a very novel design which more than meets our mass constraint (this is very important, because a kilo we can’t shave off is a kilo we have to carry with us on each and every mission over the rocket’s lifetime), and shows great promise for scalability.
We’re confident that this design will meet regulatory standards for safe operations, and to that end, we are beginning to put together a submittal package for initial government review. We have already established contacts with multiple national laboratories and are in the process of completing agreements with them to ensure we remain “tied at the hip.”
We’re very excited to start some preliminary tests and validate our analyses to date. Many first-round tests we need to perform are amenable to “garage”-level (read: simple and inexpensive) checks to ensure the observed physics matches our models – or that deviations are understood and explainable. Advances in additive manufacturing make quick-turn design-and-test a reality – something we will continue to leverage as we move to more complex assemblies and test rigs.
More soon. And if you’re wondering about the picture, it’s simple: We’ve selected the locomotive as our mascot. Building out a reliable cislunar transportation architecture bears an uncanny resemblance to the standup of the transcontinental railway system in the United States. To do either, you need to select both the right roads (standard paths or orbits) and a powerful, reliable engine (rocket) to run on them.
Enabling this future is Dark Fission’s mission.
#darkfission #cislunar #artemis #draco
21 April 2022, Berkeley, CA
So why send a reactor to space?
(1) A nuclear reactor can heat a light monopropellant like hydrogen, methane, or ammonia to very high temperatures and achieve specific impulses higher than any chemical propulsion system (i.e., 900 seconds or better with hydrogen), at comparable thrust to weight levels. This means that a nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) can get anywhere in cislunar space as quickly as a chemical one, on far less propellant. The only true limitation on performance is how hot you can run the engine.
(2) Unlike electric propulsion, which is the go-to alternative for folks who don’t want to consider chemical, a nuclear thermal rocket isn’t power-limited. That constraint on power – historically imposed by whatever a solar array and battery can provide – dramatically reduces thrust to weight and generally means that systems using electric thrusters measure transfer times between orbits in cislunar space of weeks, months, or even longer. Ferrying things back and forth between LEO and GEO or LEO and the moon will take a lot of time. The NTR can get from LEO (where it will park between missions) to GEO and back in less than a day.
If we want to build the right cislunar highway system out of the gate, we need to pick the best tool for the job – and that’s the NTR, with its combination of high thrust to weight (short transits) and high efficiency (low propellant consumption).
(Oh, and it’ll be great for getting to Mars, too.)
We’re very excited about getting underway and will be providing updates on our progress as we press forward. Check us out at www.darkfission.space and feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
#darkfission #cislunar #space
22 March 2022, Berkeley, CA
We’re live and ready to roll!
Dark Fission Launches to Bring Nuclear Thermal Rockets to Market
Promises revolutionary gains in performance, leveraging sixty years of evolving technologies
March 22, 2022 – Berkeley, CA — Dark Fission Space Systems, an early-stage space start-up, aims to accelerate the expansion of the space economy beyond Low Earth Orbit through the development and deployment of the first commercially available nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) engine. Led by Dr. Fred Kennedy, the Dark Fission team will combine years of NTR design evolution with modern advances in computing, manufacturing, and materials to produce a safe and reliable in-space propulsion capability with performance characteristics exceeding anything available today.
The frontier of commercial space activity is now extending throughout cislunar space, encompassing Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO), the Earth -Moon Lagrange points, and the lunar surface. Because of the immense distances involved, current propulsion solutions are typically either inefficient or very slow. NTR offers both short transit times and very high fuel economy, enabling persistent transportation between numerous orbits of interest.
As DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office Director from 2017 to 2019, Dr. Kennedy originated what has become the agency’s nuclear space propulsion program, DRACO. Dark Fission will collaborate closely with both government and industry partners to pursue the on-orbit demonstration of an operational NTR engine within the next five years. Unlocking the capabilities of an NTR is expected to result in its rapid market adoption for orbital transfer and lunar access services – and open the door to additional opportunities beyond.
Drop us a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org
#darkfission #space #spaceindustry #cislunar