NASA has signed a contract with nuclear technology company BWXT to design a nuclear thermal rocket engine.
BWXT will create an initial reactor design and begin fuel and core fabrication development, with work under the contract continuing until 2019.
The reactor will be used in a nuclear thermal propulsion rocket engine, which NASA hopes will reduce travel times when sending humans to Mars.
Lower travel times will reduce an astronaut’s exposure to radiation in space, along with the amount of supplies needed for the journey.
Nuclear thermal propulsion technology has not been fully developed yet, but NASA hopes a working design will be ready for its 2030 Mars mission.