NASA has awarded the first contracts for its Project Prometheus nuclear-powered spacecraft initiative. Eleven teams studying radioisotope-based power-conversion technology have been granted contracts worth $43 million. They cover thermoelectrics, thermophotovoltaics and Stirling- and Brayton-cycle engines. Study contracts worth $150 million for the related nuclear-powered Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter are also imminent and the US space agency has requested $3 billion for the first five years of Project Prometheus, but says it could cost $9 billion by 2012.

Source: Flight International