NASA to test 3 nuclear fission plant designs on the Moon to power Martian and deep space exploration

WION Web Team
Washington, D.C., USA Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 11:22 PM(IST)

(Representative image) Photograph:( Reuters )

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Three companies, Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, and IX (a partnership between Intuitive Machines and X-Energy), will be receiving a contract through DOE's Idaho National Laboratory, each valued at nearly $5 million

Nasa, along with the US department of energy, is working to enhance space nuclear technologies. The space agency has chosen three design concept proposals for a fission surface power system design which may be ready for launch by the end of this decade for a demonstration on the Moon and is going to benefit exploration under the Artemis mission in the future.

Three companies, Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, and IX (a partnership between Intuitive Machines and X-Energy), will be receiving a contract through DOE's Idaho National Laboratory, each valued at nearly $5 million.

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The contracts will finance the development of initial design concepts for a 40-kilowatt class fission power system which is being planned to last for a minimum period of 10 years in the lunar environment.

Fission systems are reliable and relatively small and lightweight in comparison to other power systems. These systems will have the capacity to enable continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, and other natural environmental conditions, paving the way for long-duration missions on the Moon and even Mars.

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The Associate Administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, Jim Reuter, said, "New technology drives our exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The development of these early designs will help us lay the groundwork for powering our long-term human presence on other worlds."

Idaho National Laboratory's managing and operating contractor, Battelle Energy Alliance, led the request for the Proposal development, evaluation, and also procurement sponsored by NASA. 

Idaho National Laboratory Director John Wagner said, "The Fission Surface Power project is a very achievable first step toward the United States establishing nuclear power on the Moon. I look forward to seeing what each of these teams will accomplish."

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NASA will receive critical information from the industry through Phase 1 awards that can result in the full flight-certified fission power system being jointly developed.

The Fission surface power technologies will also help NASA with mature nuclear propulsion systems that rely on reactors to generate power that can be used for deep space exploration missions.

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