|Nuclear Rocket Development Station tested nuclear rocket for Mars mission|
During the life of its operation, more than $100 million was spent on facility construction and equipment. The NRDS consisted of test cells, "A," "C," and ETS-1 Engine Test Stand; R-MAD and E-MAD (Reactor and Engine Maintenance Assembly and Disassembly facilities; a Control Point/Technical Operations complex; an administrative area; and a radioactive material storage area.
The three test cell areas were connected by road and railroad to the R-MAD and E-MAD buildings.
The Rover Program successfully demonstrated that a nuclear reactor could be used to heat liquid hydrogen for spacecraft propulsion.
The 'Kiwi', 'Phoebus', 'Peewee' and ' Nuclear Furnace' series were developed and tested to understand the basics of nuclear rocket reactor technology. The reactors, designed to study high-temperature fuels and long-life fuel elements, were operated with increasingly greater specific impulses, power levels, and power densities.
Rover also included the Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA) program, a technology demonstration effort to determine the characteristics of the NERVA Reactor Experiment and Ground Experiment Engines (an outgrowth of the 'Kiwi' reactor series) during start up, full power, and shutdown conditions.
Based on results of those demonstrations, scientists began designing a nuclear rocket using a high-power, high-thrust NERVA engine and a low-power, low-thrust, small engine. These designs were for the in-flight test program.
In 1969, the United States abandoned plans for human exploration of Mars. The Rover Program was subsequently canceled in 1972. Today there are indications of renewed interest in development of a nuclear rocket engine for deep space missions.