posted on Feb, 9 2004 @ 01:39 PM
NASA’s Project Prometheus Gets New Agenda, Changes
By: Brian Berger
Space News Staff Writer
Project Prometheus, NASA’s multibillion-dollar nuclear power and propulsion initiative, has a new home inside the U.S. space agency.
Begun as the Nuclear Systems Initiative in 2002, the program was given a new name in 2003, a bigger budget and its first mission: the Jupiter Icy
Moons Orbiter (JIMO).
Now, with an ambitious new space exploration agenda handed down by the White House, NASA is making more changes to Project Prometheus.
JIMO’s launch date is slipping and responsibility for developing the nuclear systems NASA says it needs to kick solar system exploration into high
gear is being given to the newly established Exploration Systems Enterprise. The new enterprise will be headed by retired U.S. Navy Adm. Craig
Steidle, a veteran of the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter program.
The move takes the bulk of Project Prometheus and its funding -- expected to top $438 million in 2005 — away from NASA’s Space Science Enterprise.
Ed Weiler, NASA associate administrator for space science, said his organization remains in charge of setting the science guidelines for the JIMO
mission and will continue to oversee the development of the radioisotope power generators -- essentially plutonium-powered batteries -- the agency
needs for a long-lasting science rover it is launching to Mars in 2009.
The rest of Project Prometheus, including the design and development of the JIMO spacecraft and its nuclear propulsion system, is moving to Steidle’s
organization, literally just down the hall from Weiler’s office at NASA headquarters here.
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