NASA plans to bring nuclear power to the Moon

NASA and the US Department of Energy (DOE) selected a handful of companies to design concepts with a simple, yet wildly ambitious goal: to bring nuclear power to the Moon.

The two institutions have thus signed three 12-month contracts, worth $5 million each, with companies responsible for designing fission surface power systems that could be ready for launch by the end of the year. end of the decade for a demonstration on the Moon.

A 40 kilowatt fission power system

For NASA and the American authorities, nuclear power came naturally because of the difficulty of finding other easily exploitable energy sources on the Moon or further out in space. When astronauts return to the Moon, or eventually when they travel to Mars, they will need a reliable, lightweight power system. It will also need to be able to operate in different locations, as well as in different environmental and weather conditions. Fission systems meet these criteria.

By the end of the decade, NASA and the US government want to test a 40 kilowatt fission power system on the Moon. For perspective, a 40 kilowatt system could provide enough power to run 30 homes continuously for 10 years. Companies that receive these new contracts will have to design 40 kilowatt systems that should last at least 10 years in the lunar environment.

“The Fission Surface Power project is a very feasible first step toward the United States establishing nuclear power on the Moon,” John Wagner, director of the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, said in a statement. The three contracts delegated by NASA and the US government have been awarded to Lockheed Martin, which will partner with BWXT and Creare; Westinghouse, which will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne; and IX, a joint venture of Intuitive Machines and X-Energy that will partner with Maxar and Boeing.


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