Couldn’t dusting off the all the works done on NERVA before that was mothballed significantly speed up work? After all, the gov had working prototypes Video Gamer Cool Video Games Saying shirt before shutting down the project.I think it’s a lot more time than that, iirc. Scott Manley has a good video on NERVA that goes into good detail and shows some footage of the tests.The only issue with that is you’d have to hope those prototypes are in working condition, and you’d likely run into the Saturn V issue where most of the engineers working on the Nerva are either dead or in retirement homes. But ultimately, it would 100% help speed things up a good bit. Just not as much as one would hope.
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You can create a demonstration unit using heaters and ballast simulating the thermal and mass characteristics Video Gamer Cool Video Games Saying shirt that budget. It’s not like they just sketch some stuff in solidworks and then build it with flight hardware. There’s a whole TRL scale you climb before getting to putting nuclear material into anything.The thing with reports is everyone wants more reporting and nobody looks at reporting. Unless a report/email/dashboard can be read in 10 seconds, nobody is going to look at it.