Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 - Faculty of Law

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The affirmation of the U.S. space nuclear technology strategy

Par Amaury Dufay


Since 2017, U.S. interest in space-based nuclear power applications appears renewed. In a context of growing international competition, these applications are even receiving increasingly structured political support. The objective of this note is to examine these developments in order to put into perspective the issues that accompany them. Although primarily intended for interplanetary exploration (surface energy supply and high-performance propulsion), space nuclear technologies remain dual. By their very nature, they pose proliferation problems that are of interest to the field of law as well as to strategic studies and international political science. These technologies also constitute a challenge in terms of perceptions, insofar as they have a definite impact on the way public opinion perceives the security orientation of space policies by governments and international organizations.

About the Author

Amaury Dufay is studies manager in the Space task group of the Institute of Strategy and Defense Studies (IESD). He is a specialist in the technological and capability dynamics of New Space. His expertise is particularly focused on the strategic issues of advanced propulsion systems, weaponization and space tactics.

Nuclear thermal propulsion consists in using a nuclear reactor core to heat a propellant mass

Amaury Dufay
October 20th 2021
Announcement of the resumption of nuclear propulsion by NASA
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Technology-capability analysis

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