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Work With Us - Open Solicitations - Commercial

Submit your commercial solutions to solve national security challenges with the help from DIU.

Advanced Nuclear Propulsion and Power

Responses Due By

2021-09-23 23:59:59 US/Eastern Time

Problem Statement

The Department of Defense (DoD) is seeking commercial solutions for lightweight, portable, and long-duration power sources that can support propulsion and on-station power for sensing and communication on small- and medium-sized spacecraft. Current electric and solar-based propulsion systems are neither suitable for future mission sets that will extend beyond Earth orbit, nor are they compatible with the volume constraints imposed by the shrinking size of next generation spacecraft. Advanced propulsion technology that enables high delta-V and electrical power to payloads, while maintaining fuel efficiency, is required to enable new DoD mission sets in space. 

Future missions will demand more electrical power to expand the capabilities of spacecraft--allowing for orbital changes, methods to control or facilitate de-orbit or transfer of materials between orbits, etc. While the U.S. government is supporting the development of fission-based propulsion and power (e.g. nuclear thermal propulsion technology and compact fission reactors), DIU’s DoD partners are interested in adopting mature commercial technologies that can provide power and propulsion in the near term. Other Transaction (OT) awards resulting from this solicitation will support laboratory-based prototype testing of nuclear power and propulsion systems. 

Desired Product Capabilities

Competitive proposals will address as many of the following capabilities as possible and must show credible manufacturing, regulatory, and licensing paths toward prototype development within three to five years and a follow-on path to flight based testing. DIU will consider solutions that cover a subset or the entirety of the below specifications. 

  • Propulsion:
    • high specific impulse (>2,000 sec)
    • high delta-V capability (>10km/s)
  • Power:
    • high specific energy and specific power 
    • laboratory demonstration of scalability to >kWe 
    • system lifetime above minimum power threshold > 3 years
  • Scalability:
    • systems can be scaled down in size to < 2,000kg propulsion and power system dry mass
  • Additional capabilities and qualities of interest:
    • provide heat to spacecraft systems in shadowed environments (in space)
    • minimize radiation exposure to ground personnel during spacecraft integration
    • minimize ionizing radiation exposure to and impact on surrounding electronic components, integrated circuits, avionics, etc. 
    • include feasible manufacturing of radioactive material fuel elements and safety characteristics (e.g. encapsulation, thermal stability)

Additional Instructions

Companies may submit multiple proposals in response to this solicitation. The Government may facilitate teaming arrangements among companies proposing complementary solutions to address the full scope of desired capabilities. Companies are also welcome to present their own teaming arrangements in their proposals.  

Proposal Guidance

  • Show how your technology or dataset specifically addresses the solicitation; generic descriptions of technology platforms are unnecessary and highly discouraged.
  • Include your systems engineering approach and any assumptions related to determining spacecraft and subsystem performance metrics for your proposed solution. 
  • Proposals must include:
    • a list of key leadership and technical personnel from company


  • Companies selected at phase zero will be invited to deliver a technical pitch (virtually via telecon) within two to three weeks of the closing of this posting. The pitch will allow the evaluation team to assess the current feasibility and maturity of the proposed solution.