NASA’s Artemis Concept Awards announced for nuclear power on the Moon

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NASA is trying to come up with space nuclear technologies soon. And, to work on such projects, the space agency has collaborated with the US Department of Energy (DOE). The agencies selected three design concept proposals for contracts that could each be valued at around $5 million. The proposals relate to the design of a fission surface power system. These designs could see the light of day in the space of a decade. After a decade, they would be ready for a demonstration on the Moon.

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This technology would aid in future exploration and would be covered under the Artemis umbrella. Contracts for these design proposals will be awarded through the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. The contracts will fund the initial development of design concepts “for a 40 kilowatt-class fission power system expected to last at least 10 years in the lunar environment,” according to NASA’s website.

NASA focuses on fission technology because they are smaller and lighter than other power systems. Jim Reuter, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Missions Directorate, said, “New technologies are driving our exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond. Developing these early designs will help us lay the groundwork for nurturing our long-term human presence on other worlds.

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Idaho National Laboratory Director John Wagner said, “The Fission Surface Power project is a very feasible first step toward establishing nuclear power on the Moon by the United States. I can’t wait to see what each of these teams will accomplish.

The development, evaluation, and procurement of the RFP was sponsored by NASA and led by Battelle Energy Alliance, which is the Idaho National Laboratory’s management and operations contractor.

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NASA’s Phase 1 awards will provide the space agency with essential industry insights. This could soon lead to “joint development of a fully flight-certified fission energy system”. Fission surface energy technologies will help the agency deliver mature nuclear propulsion systems. These systems could be used for deep space exploration missions in the future.

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