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Three design concept concepts for a nuclear fission surface power system have been chosen by NASA, the US space agency, and might be launched by the end of the decade for a lunar demonstration.

This technology would benefit future exploration under the Artemis mission that aims to land the first woman and the first person of colour on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration in preparation for missions to Mars.

The three companies that will receive the 12-month contracts—each worth around $5 million—from the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory are Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, and IX (a partnership between Intuitive Machines and X-Energy).

The contracts fund the development of initial design concepts for a 40-kilowatt class fission power system planned to last at least 10 years in the lunar environment. A demonstration of such systems on the Moon would pave the way for long-duration missions on the Moon and, ultimately, Mars.

“New technology drives our exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Developing these early designs will help us lay the groundwork for powering our long-term human presence on other worlds,” Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement late on Tuesday.

“The Fission Surface Power project is a very achievable first step toward the United States establishing nuclear power on the Moon,” added Idaho National Laboratory Director, John Wagner.

The Phase 1 awards will provide NASA with critical information from the industry that can lead to the joint development of a full flight-certified fission power system.

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


The above article has been published from a wire agency with minimal modifications to the headline and text.