Artist rendering of a Pulsed Plasma Rocket spacecraft. Credit: Howe Industries

NASA is funding the early stages of a new rocket propulsion system that could transform deep space travel. Developed by Howe Industries using fission-based power to generate thrust, the Pulsed Plasma Rocket (PPR) is smaller, more affordable, and more efficient than current technologies aimed at deep space exploration. According to a statement by NASA, PPR’s high efficiency would enable human missions to Mars within a matter of two months—a journey that currently takes up to two years. The propulsion technology could also support heavier spacecraft, allowing for more shielding to protect astronauts against harmful cosmic rays during space travel.

PPR is now in phase two of a NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) study and could one day provide large cargo transports to and from Mars, while also enabling mining and exploration in the far reaches of the solar system.

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