The US Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA have partnered to make nuclear power a reality on the Moon. The agencies have selected three design concepts for a nuclear fission system that can be used on the lunar surface, according to the space agency''s website.
Through this artemis program, NASA intends to send a human to the south pole of the Moon by 2025. However, unlike previous lunar missions, the purpose of the Artemis program is not only to visit the Moon but to stay there.
One of the greatest obstacles to cross is how a proposed settlement will be powered. Solar panels are excellent for powering rovers, but the human settlement will require a continuous as well as reliable source of energy. Nuclear fission has been proven extensively on Earth and is also relatively small and lightweight to be shipped to the Moon.
Nuclear fission reactor on the Moon
NASA analyzed more proposals for a 40-kilowatt class fission reactor demonstration prototype that will last for at least ten years. The agencies have now selected three design concepts submitted by the administration.
Lockheed Martin has partnered with two firms for its suggestion, one of which is BWXT, the company that has recently won a Department of Defense contract to build a Megawatt-scale portable nuclear reactor.
Westinghouse is partnering with Aerojet Rocketdyne on this project, while IX''s partners are Maxar and Boeing.
The Department of Energy has given $5 million contracts to the three companies listed above for Phase I work that will see the companies develop their preliminary designs over a twelve-month period. "The Fission Surface Power project is a very functional first step toward establishing nuclear power on the Moon. I''d love to see each of these teams accomplishing this goal.
According to a press release, the award is intended to assist NASA gain critical information to develop a full-flight certified fission-powered system. If everything goes as planned, one of these systems will be ready for a launch by the end of the decade and sent to the Moon for demonstration purposes.
On the Moon and beyond!
NASA is not attempting to only use this space to build the settlement in the near future. Its technology will also assist NASA in implementing nuclear propulsion systems that will also use a nuclear reactor at their core. Nuclear propulsion systems might assist NASA in deep space exploration missions.
"New technology drives our exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond," said NASA''s Space Technology Mission Directorate. "Developing these early designs will help us lay the foundations for our long-term human presence on other continents."