NASA's Revolutionary Propulsion System for Faster Mars Travel

NASA's Revolutionary Propulsion System for Faster Mars Travel

Rafaela Costa
2 min read

NASA Partners with Howe Industries to Develop Revolutionary Pulsed Plasma Rocket

NASA has teamed up with Arizona-based Howe Industries to create a groundbreaking propulsion system that could slash the travel time to Mars from nine months to just two months. The new system utilizes nuclear fission to produce plasma for thrust, potentially generating an impressive 22,481 pounds of force with a specific impulse of 5,000 seconds, resulting in exceptional fuel efficiency. This innovation could pave the way for safer and faster crewed spaceflights, equipping spacecraft with shielding against galactic cosmic rays for the astronauts on board.

Key Takeaways

  • NASA's NIAC program has selected Howe Industries' pulsed plasma rocket, alongside projects like a lunar railway system and fluid-based telescopes, for further development.
  • The pulsed plasma rocket, powered by nuclear fission, holds the promise of reducing human travel time to Mars to a mere two months, while offering high fuel efficiency and increased safety measures for astronauts.
  • The system's capabilities may usher in cost reductions for extended space missions, enable the transportation of heavier spacecraft, and advance nuclear-based space propulsion.


Howe Industries' pulsed plasma rocket, chosen by NASA's NIAC program, could revolutionize human space exploration. By vastly reducing the travel time to Mars and enhancing fuel efficiency, this technology could lead to a new chapter in space exploration. Rivalling organizations such as SpaceX and Blue Origin may need to adapt their plans for Martian travel in response to these game-changing developments. Ultimately, this innovation may spark a new era in manned missions to Mars and beyond, with an increase in international and commercial participation.

Did You Know?

  • Nuclear Fission: This process involves splitting a large atomic nucleus, such as uranium or plutonium, into smaller nuclei along with by-products. In the context of Howe Industries' pulsed plasma rocket, nuclear fission is utilized to create plasma packets for thrust, harnessing a significant amount of energy for propulsion.
  • Pulsed Plasma Rocket: This type of rocket generates plasma packets for thrust, with the specific instance involving the use of nuclear fission. The planned pulsed plasma rocket by Howe Industries is expected to produce up to 22,481 pounds of force with high fuel efficiency, potentially slashing human travel time to Mars to just two months.
  • NIAC's Phase 2: NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program is funding the development of Howe Industries' pulsed plasma rocket, envisioning a crucial phase focusing on assessing the technology's neutronics, designing spacecraft and power systems, analyzing magnetic nozzle capabilities, and determining trajectories and benefits for potential future space missions.

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