NASA and the U.S. government are looking for proposals on how to put a nuclear fission power plant on the moon with the goal of having energy on the moon that’s not reliant on the sun by the end of the decade.
NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory formally put out a request for proposals from the public on Friday for a fission surface power system.
In a collaboration between NASA and the nation’s top federal nuclear research lab, the two agencies are specifically looking to establish a source of power that does not rely on the sun or solar power for missions on the moon.
‘Providing a reliable, high-power system on the moon is a vital next step in human space exploration, and achieving it is within our grasp,’ Sebastian Corbisiero, the Fission Surface Power Project lead at the lab, said in a statement.
Pictured: A diagram of the nuclear fission power system NASA and the US government are currently accepting proposals for
NASA and the nation’s top federal nuclear research lab are looking to establish a source of power, diagram pictured, that does not rely on the sun or solar power for missions on the moon
NASA is pursuing development and research of the project in order to meet the agency’s anticipated future planetary surface power needs
Said power system, which would be built on Earth and sent to the moon, will need to supply continuous power for 10 years in the lunar environment
Should the lunar nuclear reactors be a success in supporting a sustained human presence on the moon, the next stop would be Mars, according to the world’s leading space agency.
NASA states that such fission surface power could likely provide long-term power for human lunar colonies, regardless of environmental conditions.
‘I expect fission surface power systems to greatly benefit our plans for power architectures for the moon and Mars and even drive innovation for uses here on Earth,’ Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement.
The reactor itself would be built on earth before being sent to the moon.
For those who wish to send a proposal, NASA says submitted plans for the fission surface power system will need to include a uranium-fueled reactor core, a thermal management system to keep the reactor at the proper temperature, a system to convert the nuclear power into usable energy, and a distribution system that provides no less than 40 kilowatts of electric power.
Said power system proposals will need to supply continuous power for 10 years in the lunar environment.
If successful, the nuclear power system would be used in similar missions to send humans to Mars
NASA says fission surface power could likely provide long-term power for human lunar colonies, regardless of environmental conditions
Pictured: The Idaho National Laboratory Transient Reactor Test Facility in Idaho Falls, which has partnered with NASA to accept proposals for a nuclear fission power plant on the moon
The deadline for proposals for an initial system design is February 19
The reactor must also be capable of turning itself on and off without human oversight, that it can operate from a lunar lander deck, and that it is mobile enough to be transported from the lander to a different lunar site for operation if necessary.
Successful proposals for the reactor must weigh no more than 13,200 pounds, and be able to fit inside a 12-foot diameter cylinder that’s 18 feet long when launched from earth to the moon.
The deadline for proposal requests for an initial system design must be submitted by February 19, the outlet reports.
This is not the first collaborative project between NASA and the Idaho National Laboratory, with the lab most recently helping build a radioisotope power system for the space agency’s Mar’s rover Perseverance, which converts heat that’s generated from the decay or plutonium-238 into electrical power.
The rover landed on the Martian surface back in February and has remained active on the red planet ever since.
The Energy Department has also recently been looking for private businesses to collaborate with on various nuclear power plans, most notably a new generation of smaller power plants ranging from small modular rectors to small mobile reactors that can quickly be set up in the field and be removed when no longer needed.