At the suggestion of Theodore von Kármán and following a request of Gen. H. B. Thatcher, an Ad Hoc Committee of the Scientific Advisory Board met in the Pentagon to consider the application of nuclear energy to missile propulsion. In its report, the Committee "noted that there was an almost complete hiatus in the study of the nuclear rocket from 1947 following a report by North American Aviation, until a 1953 report by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Because the technical problems appear so severe, and because another 6 years of no progress in this area would seem to be unfortunate," the Committee felt that a continuing study both analytical and experimental, at a modest level of effort, should be carried on.
NACA Lewis Laboratory presented ARDC with results of air-breathing nuclear propulsion systems for manned applications, leading to AEC-AF Pluto project, and also initiated comparison of nuclear rocket with chemical systems for ICBM, a concept of use to Rover program.
The Atomic Energy Commission approved, on the basis of a statement of interest by the Department of Defense, the proposed plans of the Los Alamos Scientific and the Radiation Laboratories of the University of California, for the study and development of nuclear power for rocket propulsion.
As a result of guidance from the Secretary of Defense as to desired level of effort, the Atomic Energy Commission reduced its program on nuclear rocket propulsion to a single laboratory effort, phasing out work at the University of California Radiation Laboratory and concentrating AEC development efforts at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.
Research on tungsten nuclear rocket propulsion systems initiated by NACA Lewis Laboratory, and other feasible systems for practical nuclear rocket systems, such as 1958 concept of coaxial jet gaseous reactor, followed.
The first experimental reactor (Kiwi-A) in the nuclear space rocket program operated successfully at full temperature and duration at Jackass Flats, Nev.
The Chairman, AEC, in a letter to the Administrator of NASA, proposed a flight test objective be established for the nuclear rocket program and proposed a technical program and division of agency responsibilities to achieve those objectives.
Second experimental reactor (Kiwi-A Prime) in the Project Rover nuclear rocket program was successfully tested at full power and duration at Jackass Flats, Nev.
In a memorandum to NASA Associate Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Robert L. King, Executive Secretary, described the action taken on certain items discussed at the July 14-15 meeting of the Space Exploration Program Council. Among these actions was the awarding of a contract to The RAND Corporation to evaluate missions for which nuclear propulsion would be desirable. Included in the study would be the determination of availability dates, cost of development, operational costs, the safety aspects of the missions, and an evaluation of research requirements.
AEC briefing held at the Nevada Test Site at Jackass Flats, Nev., for representatives of 26 companies for proposals to study the requirements for a National Nuclear Rocket Engine Development Facility. Existing test facilities are fully committed to the development of nuclear reactors.
Kiwi-A No. 3 static test of nuclear rocket propulsion was successfully conducted at AEC Nevada test site, resulting in NASA-AEC call for bids for industrial development phase of Project Rover on November 1, 1960.
NASA-AEC Space Nuclear Propulsion Office invited industry to submit proposals for participation in development of Nerva (nuclear engine for rocket vehicle application), a part of Project Rover initiated in 1955 by USAF-AEC.
Reactor-in-flight-test system (Rift) study, a part of the NASA-AEC program on nuclear rockets, was briefed by contractors at NASA headquarters.
NASA selected Vitro Engineering Co. for negotiation of a design contract for an engine maintenance and disassembly building, one of the facilities to be a part of the National Nuclear Rocket Development Center.
Power run completed the test series on the Kiwi B-1A reactor system being conducted at the Nevada Test Site by AEC's Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Fourth in a series of test reactors in the joint AEC-NASA nuclear rocket propulsion program, Kiwi B-1A was disassembled for examination at the conclusion of the test runs.