NASA is launching a brand new Artemis Concept Award. This prize will reward the technologies allowing the development of nuclear energy on the Moon. The two U.S. agencies, NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE), have selected three concepts for development. They will enable the design of a fission surface power system. These projects could be ready to be launched by the end of the decade for a demonstration on the Moon.
Three companies rewarded
Idaho National Laboratory selected the three winners. They are Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse and IX, a company co-founded by Intuitive Machines and X-Energy. John Wagner, director of the Idaho National Laboratory, said:
“The Fission Surface Power project is an entirely feasible first step toward the United States establishing nuclear power on the Moon.”
Contracts for the development of these concepts will be awarded at $5 million each. These technologies should enable the creation of a 40 kW fission power system that can last 10 years on the Moon.
Relatively small and light compared to other power systems, fission systems are reliable. They could thus allow a continuous supply of food on a hostile lunar surface.
Nuclear power on the Moon: a springboard for the Artemis project
These awards will allow NASA to develop a complete flight-certified fission power system. Surface fission power generation technologies will also help NASA mature nuclear propulsion systems that use reactors to generate power.
Thus, a demonstration of these systems on the Moon would pave the way for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars. According to the administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate:
“New technologies are driving our exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond. The development of these early models will help us lay the foundation for powering our long-term human presence on other worlds.”
Nuclear power on the moon is essential to develop NASA’s Artemis program. This one plans to send back astronauts on the Moon durably around 2025.