What happened now? Three companies have been selected by NASA and the Department of Energy to develop concepts for a ground-based fission power system to provide nuclear power to the Moon. The winners were Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse and IX, a joint venture between X-Energy and Intuitive Machines. Each 12-month contract is worth approximately $5 million and requires preliminary design of a 40-kilowatt fission power system that can operate for at least 10 years on the lunar surface.

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“The development of these early projects will help us lay the groundwork for our long-term human presence on other worlds,” said Jim Reuter, Associate Administrator, NASA Office of Space Technology.

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NASA said the awards for the first stage will provide them with important information that could lead to the joint development of a fully flight-certified power system. We were told that the concept could be ready to launch for testing on the Moon by the end of the decade.

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space agency demonstrated portable power system with a nuclear reactor in 2018, but this device was only capable of generating 10 kilowatts of electricity. It used a solid cast uranium-235 reactor core about the size of a paper towel roll.

Last year, the Department of Defense began accepting proposals for nuclear propulsion technologies which could be used for deep space exploration missions. The Department of Defense has said that existing solar and electric propulsion systems are insufficient for use on next-generation spacecraft that will travel beyond Earth’s orbit.

Exploring the cosmos in the far future will likely require a deeper understanding of extremely complex concepts such as quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory, or gravity.