NASA and the US Department of Energy (DOE) have choose a handful of companies to devise concepts for bringing nuclear power to the moon, the agencies announced on Tuesday. With three 12-month contracts worth $5 million each, companies are expected to design fission surface power the systems design could be ready to launch by the end of the decade for demonstration on the Moon.
NASA and the DOE are exploring nuclear power because electricity, of course, isn’t exactly available on the Moon or further out in space. When astronauts return to the Moon and eventually travel to Mars, they will need a reliable, lightweight power system. It should also be able to work in different locations, as well as in different environmental and weather conditions. Fission systems meet the criteria.
By the end of the decade, NASA and the DOE want to test a 40 kilowatt-class fission power system on the Moon. To put that into perspective, a 40 kilowatt system could provide enough power to run 30 homes continuously for 10 years.
The companies that will receive the new contracts are expected to design 40 kilowatt systems that are expected to last at least 10 years in the lunar environment.
“The Fission Surface Power project is a very feasible first step toward establishing nuclear power on the Moon by the United States,” John Wagner, director of the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, said in a statement. . “I can’t wait to see what each of these teams achieve.”
The three contracts go to: Lockheed Martin, which will partner with BWXT and Creare; Westinghouse, which will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne; and IX, a joint venture between Intuitive Machines and X-Energy that will partner with Maxar and Boeing.
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