NASA awards three contracts to design a nuclear power plant for the Moon

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,227   +158
Staff member
What just happened? NASA and the Department of Energy have selected three companies to design concepts for a fission surface power system to provide nuclear power on the Moon. The winning contractors include Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse and IX, which is a joint venture between X-Energy and Intuitive Machines. Each 12-month contract is worth approximately $5 million, and calls for a preliminary design of a 40-kilowatt class fission power system that can last for at least 10 years on the lunar surface.

"Developing these early designs will help us lay the groundwork for powering our long-term human presence on other worlds," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate.

NASA said the phase one awards will provide them with critical information that can lead to the joint development of a full flight-certified power system. A concept could be ready to launch for testing on the Moon by the end of the decade, we're told.

The space agency demonstrated a portable nuclear reactor power system in 2018, but that device was only capable of generating 10 kilowatts of electrical power. It utilized a solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core that was roughly the size of a paper towel roll.

Last year, the Department of Defense started accepting proposals for nuclear propulsion technologies that could be used for deep space exploration missions. The DoD said existing solar and electrical-based propulsion systems aren't sufficient for use on next-gen spacecraft that will venture beyond Earth's orbit.

Far future space exploration will likely require a deeper understanding of extremely sophisticated concepts such as quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory or gravitics.

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Uncle Al

Posts: 8,908   +7,879
Considering they have a single unit capable of generating 10KW why not build four of them, which allows for a certain amount of refundancy and should one falil you don't end up with a total shut down. And considering the blanket on the moon you would think they should also consider adding a solar project. It won't have the capacity at the compact design of a reactor but it would give a good test of the production capability, at least for the light side .....
 
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yRaz

Posts: 4,514   +5,364
Considering they have a single unit capable of generating 10KW why not build four of them, which allows for a certain amount of refundancy and should one falil you don't end up with a total shut down. And considering the blanket on the moon you would think they should also consider adding a solar project. It won't have the capacity at the compact design of a reactor but it would give a good test of the production capability, at least for the light side .....
because the moon is tidally locked to the earth the day and night cycles are ~29 days. That means for about 14 days the solar panels would be totally useless.
 
One does have to remember that a day on the moon is nearly a month long and that means night is almost half a month long. So something other than solar would be needed for power during that time.
 

DZillaXx

Posts: 533   +681
Considering they have a single unit capable of generating 10KW why not build four of them, which allows for a certain amount of refundancy and should one falil you don't end up with a total shut down. And considering the blanket on the moon you would think they should also consider adding a solar project. It won't have the capacity at the compact design of a reactor but it would give a good test of the production capability, at least for the light side .....
10KW is not a lot of power. They would be better off setting 40KW as a goal, and add more when needed.

Also Solar should be considered, as even a smaller sized array can do 40KW.

But most importantly They should figure out a power storage solution. Even a decent sized Lithium battery pack would allow for pulling high amperage of power when needed in short bursts.
 

Aceseven

Posts: 315   +398
Considering they have a single unit capable of generating 10KW why not build four of them, which allows for a certain amount of refundancy and should one falil you don't end up with a total shut down. And considering the blanket on the moon you would think they should also consider adding a solar project. It won't have the capacity at the compact design of a reactor but it would give a good test of the production capability, at least for the light side .....
redundancy?

have you looked around, we dont deal in redundancy, we put everything in one basket and go about our lives.

I mean whats the worst that could happen? exactly
(this is sarcasm btw)
 

BigRedPDX

Posts: 283   +200
We're going to blow up the moon aren't we? We take that out and we're done as a species. Let's be smart about this lol
 

GeforcerFX

Posts: 1,030   +493
10KW is not a lot of power. They would be better off setting 40KW as a goal, and add more when needed.

Also Solar should be considered, as even a smaller sized array can do 40KW.

But most importantly They should figure out a power storage solution. Even a decent sized Lithium battery pack would allow for pulling high amperage of power when needed in short bursts.
Any basing would also use solar and prob have some battery storage as well. Redundancy is key in deep space missions, luckily lunar missions aren't weeks or months away, but still needed.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,233   +6,032
At least we have enough stuff left behind on the moon to know that you can leave things there for decades without them getting pulverized by micrometeorites. The only true future on the moon, however, is either pressurized underground shelters or ones constructed from native materials on the surface. There are certain areas where the rock is hard enough to excavate and I'd probably opt for that approach if the machinery could be supplied, mainly because it would be great practice for Mars. Either way, the real issue will be justifying the cost. Unless you can look into a crystal ball and guarantee a scientific or monetary return you'll never get serious backing. The whole "return to the moon" program has been repeatedly scaled down, postponed, "re-evaluated", used to push the woke agenda and generally turned into a shadow of the vision NASA had in the mid-2000's. Its sad that I won't see people living permanently on the moon in my lifetime, and I suspect that the kids being born right now won't either.