Department of Energy Releases ‘Energy for Space’ Strategy

Policy Recommendations Support America’s Renewed Leadership in Space

WASHINGTON, D.C. (DOE PR) – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the “Energy for Space” strategy, an outlook of policy recommendations to further DOE’s role in powering the next generation of space exploration. “Energy for Space” supports President Trump’s recently released National Space Policy, and calls for DOE to be an essential source of the science, technology, and engineering solutions that are needed for advancing U.S. leadership in the space domain.

“Under the vision outlined in today’s “Energy for Space” plan, DOE’s scientific and engineering capabilities will be applied to overcome the challenges of vast distances, extreme conditions, complex operations, and unfamiliar environments to propel and power exploration, security, and commerce in space,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “In coordination with NASA, the interagency, and private sector partners, we must continue to harness the incredible capabilities throughout the DOE enterprise to expand exploration and utilization of the space domain.”


NASA Supports America’s National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion

Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — President Donald Trump has issued a new Space Policy Directive that will help propel NASA and humanity’s next giant leap – creating a sustainable presence on the Moon and sending astronauts to Mars.

The president issued Space Policy Directive-6 (SPD-6), the Nation’s Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion (SNPP), Wednesday, Dec. 16. Space nuclear systems power spacecraft for missions where alternative power sources are inadequate, such as environments that are too dark for solar power or too far away to carry sufficient quantities of chemical fuels.


Memorandum on the National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion (Space Policy Directive-6)

Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

Space Policy Directive-6


SUBJECT: National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power
and Propulsion

Section 1. Policy. The ability to use space nuclear power and propulsion (SNPP) systems safely, securely, and sustainably is vital to maintaining and advancing United States dominance and strategic leadership in space. SNPP systems include radioisotope power systems (RPSs) and fission reactors used for power or propulsion in spacecraft, rovers, and other surface elements. SNPP systems can allow operation of such elements in environments in which solar and chemical power are inadequate. They can produce more power at lower mass and volume compared to other energy sources, thereby enabling persistent presence and operations. SNPP systems also can shorten transit times for crewed and robotic spacecraft, thereby reducing radiation exposure in harsh space environments.


Nuclear Tech in Space: What’s on the Horizon?

Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

La Grange Park, Ill. (American Nuclear Society PR) — NASA aims to develop nuclear technologies for two space applications: propulsion and surface power. Both can make planned NASA missions to the moon more agile and more ambitious, and both are being developed with future crewed missions to Mars in mind. Like advanced reactors here on Earth, space nuclear technologies have an accelerated timeline for deployment in this decade.


How a Vibration Problem in Ares I Could Cut the Cost of Off-Shore Wind Power

The uncrewed Ares I-X prototype launched in October 2009 on a successful test flight, but the rocket caused vibrations that would have been dangerous to humans on board. Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center came up with a solution using the mass of hydrogen fuel in the second-stage rocket. (Credits: NASA)

by Naomi Seck
NASA’s Spinoff Publication

When we run into a snag designing a new space vehicle, it can be frustrating for the engineers, scientists, and technologists who have spent months and years getting to that point – but it’s also an opportunity for the team to spring into action and innovate a solution.

That’s just what happened with the Ares I, a previous rocket development effort for destinations including the Moon. Though NASA ultimately decided not to continue Ares development, a revolutionary device created to fix a vibration challenge in the rocket is still going strong, and its latest version is set to make offshore wind power more efficient and affordable.


NASA to Discuss New Space Fission Power System on Thursday

Mars fission power system concept. (Credit: NASA)

LAS VEGAS (NASA PR) — NASA and its partners will host a news conference at noon EST (9 a.m. PST) Thursday, Jan. 18, at the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, to discuss a recent experiment involving a new power source that could provide the safe, efficient and plentiful energy needed for future robotic and human space exploration missions.

Audio of the news conference and presentation slides will stream live on NASA’s website.

Representatives from NASA, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Los Alamos National Laboratory and Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) will discuss and take questions on the Kilopower project, which aims to demonstrate space fission power systems technology that has the potential to enable future crewed surface missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Testing began in November 2017 and is expected to continue through March.

The news conference participants will be:

  • Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate
  • Angela Chambers, manager of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Criticality Safety Program
  • Mark Martinez, president of Mission Support and Test Services, LLC, which manages and operates the Nevada National Security Site for the NNSA
  • Janet Kavandi, director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center
  • Lee Mason, NASA’s principal technologist for power and energy storage
  • Pat McClure, Kilopower project lead at Los Alamos
  • Marc Gibson, Kilopower lead engineer at Glenn Research Center
  • Dave Poston, chief reactor designer at Los Alamos

Members of the public also can ask questions during the briefing on social media using #AskNASA.

Supporting images and video will be available online at:

The Kilopower project is part of NASA’s Game Changing Development program and is led by the agency’s Glenn Research Center, in partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Los Alamos, NNSS and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

Summary of GAO Report on Plutonium-238 Production

DOE Could Improve Planning and Communication Related to Plutonium-238 and Radioisotope Power Systems Production Challenges

United States Government Accountability Office

Selected Excerpts

Why GAO Did This Study

NASA uses RPS to generate electrical power in missions in which solar panels or batteries would be ineffective. RPS convert heat generated by the radioactive decay of Pu-238 into electricity. DOE maintains a capability to produce RPS for NASA missions, as well as a limited and aging supply of Pu-238 that will be depleted in the 2020s, according to NASA and DOE officials and documentation. With NASA funding, DOE initiated the Pu-238 Supply Project in 2011, with a goal of producing 1.5 kg of new Pu-238 per year by 2026. Without new Pu-238, future NASA missions requiring RPS are at risk.


GAO Report Raises Concern About Plutonium-238 for Deep Space Missions

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today announced the release of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on U.S. production of plutonium 238 (Pu-238), a critical component of certain spacecraft power systems. GAO recommended that the Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees production of Pu-238, undertake steps to ensure production meets NASA’s needs for future missions.

Chairman Smith: “Assessing NASA’s needs and DOE’s capabilities is important for planning future missions. GAO issued three recommendations to DOE, all of which DOE indicated they would immediately implement. We will monitor DOE’s action and hope they will enable NASA to complete future missions.”

Will NASA Suffer as Trump Administration Tightens Control?

Mike Pence

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order reconstituting the National Space Council under Vice President Mike Pence to better coordinate space policy and activities across the government.

Experts are split on whether the council will succeed in its goal or simply add another level of frustrating bureaucracy on top of the existing system.

There is another concern, however, that has received minimal attention thus far.

This is the first step of the White House imposing more control over NASA. Step 2 will come when Trump gets around to nominating a new administrator and deputy administrator to lead the space agency.


Trump Proposes Broad Range of Environmental, Energy and Health Cuts

Credit: NASA

If anyone had the slightest hope that Donald Trump might spare global warming research in his proposed spending plan, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stuck a knife through it during a contentious press conference on Thursday.

“As to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward saying we’re not spending money on that anymore,” he said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”


DOE, NASA Test Fission Reactor Prototype

John Bounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Advanced Nuclear Technology Division makes final adjustments on the DUFF experiment, a demonstration of a simple, robust fission reactor prototype that could be used as a power system for space travel. DUFF is the first demonstration of a space nuclear reactor system to produce electricity in the United States since 1965.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Nov. 26, 2012—A team of researchers, including engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, has demonstrated a new concept for a reliable nuclear reactor that could be used on space flights.