Nuclear energy has played a role in lunar exploration since the golden days of the Apollo moon program, when radioisotope power systems provided the wattage for scientific experiments.
Today such systems continue to power interplanetary spacecraft, ranging from the decades-old Voyager probes in interstellar space to the Perseverance rover that’s on its way to Mars. And now the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA are kicking things up a notch.
Tracey Bishop, deputy assistant secretary for nuclear infrastructure programs at the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Office, provided a preview today during a virtual roundtable discussion focusing on the department’s role in space exploration.
“This summer the department, along with NASA, has initiated an activity to look at doing a demonstration for fission surface power systems on the moon in the 2027, 2028 time frame, ” Bishop said.
She said potential partners from the nuclear power industry as well as the aerospace industry showed up for a “very engaging Industry Day” last month. “We’re looking forward to issuing a request for proposals from industry sometime this fall,” Bishop said.
The lunar demonstration project would follow up on the research conducted as part of the NASA-DOE Kilopower program, which successfully demonstrated ...