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The project, called the Fission Surface Energy Project, recently finished its first phase, which began in 2022. Three companies, Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, and IX, were awarded $5 million in contracts to develop lunar nuclear reactor designs. Over the course of 12 months, these companies were tasked with developing reactor designs and systems for energy conversion, heat removal, and power distribution in the unusual conditions of our natural satellite. NASA ultimately selected the Lockheed Martin project.
The main goal is to create a system that can operate lunar bases for at least ten years. The same designs could serve as a starting point for planning and building similar systems on Mars.
Why are solar panels not enough? In the long term, they require storing large amounts of energy, explains Trudy Curtis, director of the Technology Experimental Missions program in NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate:
However, NASA does not claim that only nuclear fission generators will be used on the Moon. A combination of solar and nuclear installations will likely be used to meet the electricity needs of habitats and science laboratories.
The reactor, designed by Lockheed Martin, is expected to weigh less than six tons and produce about 40 kilowatts of power. This is enough to supply energy to residential neighborhoods and research laboratories.
NASA's future plans include completing the second phase of the design in 2025, with the final system delivered to the Moon in early 2030. Furthermore, in the future, after the systems are proven on the Moon, NASA will likely redesign the nuclear reactor specifically for use. On Mars.
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