The project will need a lot of power if it succeeds. Shipping traditional fossil fuels up there is impractical and surface solar cells won't work for two weeks. It is possible to set up a nuclear power station. Three groups will each receive $5 million to develop preliminary designs for surface-based lunar fission reactor after NASA solicited some ideas along those lines.

The funding went to companies that are related to the nuclear industry. They are included.

  • Lockheed Martin, partnering with BWXT and Creare
  • Westinghouse, partnering with Aerojet Rocketdyne
  • IX (a joint venture of Intuitive Machines and X-Energy), partnering with Maxar Technologies and Boeing.

The project requires companies with expertise in nuclear and rocketry to coordinate with each other. The project is being led by the Idaho National Laboratory, which is part of the DoE. NASA contributes expertise from their surface power project at Glenn and the funding comes from the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

UT video describing KRUSTY, the predecessor experiment to the current development effort.

The proposals were due in March. The awardees will have a year to work on their initial design concepts for a 40 kilowatt reactor that can operate on the moon for at least ten years.

There is a former NASA project that could be used to create a reactor that could survive on the moon. The nickname of the reactor was KRUSTY.

Most nuclear power plants are designed with a water-based heat engine in mind. One way to save weight and solve some energy problems is to use a sterling engine, which uses gas instead of liquid.

Workers install the vacuum chamber around the KRUSTY experiment.
Workers install the vacuum chamber around the KRUSTY experiment.

The credit is from the National Nuclear Security Administration.

There is still a long way to go before anything happens on the moon. A test reactor could be ready in the early 20th century. Nuclear's consistent, reliable power will be crucial to humanity's efforts for a sustained presence in the solar system. In a year, NASA will be one step closer to realizing that goal.

You can learn more.

The Artemis Concept Awards are for nuclear power on the moon.

The NASA is known for its power.

NASA is building a nuclear reactor to power lunar and Mars exploration.

NASA is getting a lot of power on the lunar wattage challenge.