DEMOCRITOS (Demonstrators for Conversion, Reactor, Radiator and Thrusters for Electric Propulsion Systems) is supported by European Community’s H2020 Framework Programme under Grant Agreement n° 640347.

Project Summary

The DEMOCRITOS project  is a H2020 SPACE funded project to investigate the necessary demonstration activities required to mature technologies for high power space transportation with nuclear electric propulsion (NEP). It is also focused on developing the International Nuclear Power and Propulsion System (INPPS) flagship. ESF is the coordinator of the DEMOCRITOS project.

NEP is considered one of the key enabling technologies for deep space exploration - extremely ambitious space science missions and solar system exploration by humans beyond the Moon and Earth Orbit.

The main objective of the project is to produce high-level designs of three demonstrator concepts: 

a) A ground test bench system to investigate the interaction of major subsystems for the INPPS

b) A nuclear reactor concept design for a space reactor of 1MW level

c) A high-level design spaceship, together with an assembly in-orbit strategy, for a 1MW capable spacecraft.

These demonstrators can serve as the testbed for the necessary maturation of technology for MW level nuclear electric propulsion in the INPPS flagship. 

Project Consortium and Stakeholders


  • European Science Foundation (ESF) (Co-ordinator)
  • CNES LauncherDirectorate (CNES-DLA), France
  • DLR Bremen, Germany
  • Keldysh Research Center, Russia
  • The National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), United Kingdom
  • Snecma, France
  • Sagem, France
  • Thales Alenia Space Italia, Italy


Democritos is funded by Horizon 2020, the R&T program of the European Community. The Institute for advanced studies (IEAV), Brazil is observer to the project. NASA and JAXA have contributed to the design of the INPPS flagship.

Role of ESF

ESF coordinates the DEMOCRITOS project and is in charge of project communication, stakeholder management and overall project management. ESF is also responsible for defining the institutional arrangements needed to fund such an ambitious project as part of the project deliverables.

Timeline & Funding

The DEMOCRITOS project was the follow up project to MEGAHIT (202-2013). It began in 2014 and expected to end early 2016.  Total budget: 1M euros.

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