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The White House Issues National Security Presidential Memorandum on Launch of Spacecraft Containing Space Nuclear Systems

Press Release From: White House
Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Today, President Donald J. Trump issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) on the safe and effective utilization of space nuclear systems as America explores and uses the Moon to develop sustainable technologies and operations necessary for human missions to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system. 

The NSPM updates the interagency safety review and launch authorization processes for space nuclear systems, requiring Presidential authorization for certain Federal Government missions via the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the President’s National Security Advisor. It establishes safety guidelines to assist mission planners and launch authorization authorities in ensuring launch safety across the full range of space nuclear systems.

Space nuclear systems enable the United States to fulfil its scientific and exploration objectives as we look to the next era of American space leadership. These systems, which include radioisotope power systems and nuclear reactors, can power, heat, and propel our spacecraft for missions where alternative power sources are inadequate, such as environments that are too dark for solar power and too far away to carry sufficient quantities of chemical fuels. 

This Memorandum helps ensure the Federal Government and the private sector safely and effectively use space nuclear systems to power space discovery and exploration. The development of the NSPM was coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Security Council, and the National Space Council.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, the Nation has recommitted itself to space leadership and the expansion of human discovery on other worlds. This Administration understands that persistent U.S. presence in space requires the development and application of advanced technologies, including lightweight and long lasting energy sources that can support human life and exploration in harsh environments,” said Dr. Kelvin K. Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“The NSPM updates and provides clarity to our space nuclear systems launch process, laying the foundation necessary to propel and power future American spacecraft. OSTP looks forward to the implementation of this and other policy initiatives that will strengthen American leadership in space, science, and technology.”

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