NASA Announces Artemis Concept Awards for Nuclear Power on Moon

Artist’s concept of a fission power system on the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are working together to advance space nuclear technologies. The agencies have selected three design concept proposals for a fission surface power system design that could be ready to launch by the end of the decade for a demonstration on the Moon. This technology would benefit future exploration under the Artemis umbrella.

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Powering the Future of Space Exploration: DIU Launching Next-Generation Nuclear Propulsion and Power

Nuclear thermal propulsion system. (Credit; USNC-Tech)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., May 17, 2022 (DIU) — The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) is advancing two different approaches to accelerate ground and flight testing for nuclear-powered prototypes: compact fusion and next-gen radioisotope concepts.  The ultimate objective is to launch a successful orbital prototype demonstration in 2027 of each approach.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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NASA Selects 8 Early Stage Tech Innovations from US Universities

Illustration of Artemis astronauts on the Moon. NASA’s Artemis mission will establish a sustainable presence on the Moon to prepare for missions to Mars. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Research and development in labs across the country today could lead to enhanced capabilities in space in the future. NASA has selected eight university-led research proposals to study early-stage technologies relating to advanced materials, quantum communications, and more.

Each selection will receive up to $650,000 in grants from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants program over up to three years, giving the university teams the time and resources to iterate multiple designs and solutions.

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Sierra Space Provides Integration Services for New Nuclear Propulsion System as Part of DARPA’s DRACO Program

DRACO in orbit (Credit: Sierra Space)

LOUISVILLE, Colo., June 24, 2021 (Sierra Space PR) – Sierra Space, the new commercial space subsidiary of global aerospace and national security leader Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), will supply the propulsion components and integration services for a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system under a recent contract with General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). GA-EMS and Sierra Space will develop and demonstrate an on-orbit NTP system for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO).

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BWXT Awarded Additional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Work for NASA

Nuclear thermal propulsion system. (Credit: BWX Technologies)

LYNCHBURG, Va., April 1, 2021 (BWX Technologies PR) – BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced today that it is continuing its groundbreaking Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) design, manufacturing development, and test support work for NASA. NTP is one of the technologies that is capable of propelling a spacecraft to Mars, and this contract continues BWXT’s work that began in 2017.

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NASA Funds Research on Nuclear-powered Solar Sails to Quickly Explore Outer Planets

A nominal layout of a solar sail vehicle with a central payload and avionics unit, supported by a distributed APPLE power system with the number and area of units scaled to mission power need (not to scale). (Credits: E. Joseph Nemanick)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase I Award
Funding: up to $125,000
Study Period: 9 months

Atomic Planar Power for Lightweight Exploration (APPLE)
E. Joseph Nemanick
The Aerospace Corporation
Santa Monica, Calif.

The Atomic Planar Power for Lightweight Exploration (APPLE) is an enabling architecture for deep solar system missions on low mass, fast transit space platforms. We explore an alternative vehicle architecture that integrates a long-lived, peak power capable, rechargeable, and modular power system with solar sail propulsion, and examine the new missions this architecture enables.

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Rolls-Royce and UK Space Agency Launch Study into Nuclear-powered Space Exploration

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The UK Space Agency and Rolls-Royce are joining forces for a unique study into how nuclear power and technologies could be used as part of space exploration.

This new research contract will see planetary scientists work together to explore the game-changing potential of nuclear power as a more plentiful source of energy, capable of making possible deeper space exploration in the decades to come.

Nuclear propulsion, which would involve channelling the immense energy released in splitting the atom to accelerate propellants, like hydrogen, at huge speeds, has the potential to revolutionise space travel.

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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.

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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.

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Department of Energy Looks to Support Space Exploration

by Paul M. Dabbar
Under Secretary for Science
Department of Energy

America is on the verge of a new era of space exploration, and America’s leadership in the space domain will be due to its courage to go and its conviction to stay.  DOE, by many measures the “Department of Exploration,” is proud to be playing an essential part in rising to these challenges.

NASA and SpaceX recently launched American astronauts aboard an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station for the first time since 2011, and America is actively planning to return to the Moon … and then go even further.

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NIAC Award: Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration

Graphic depiction of the SPEAR Probe concept. (Credits: Troy Howe)

NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC)
Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

SPEAR Probe – An Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration

Troy Howe
Howe Industries LLC

Nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) systems have the potential to provide a very effective transit mechanism to celestial bodies outside of the realm of solar power, yet the heavy power source and massive radiators required to justify a reactor core often push NEP spacecraft towards very large masses and major missions.

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NIAC Award: Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration

SPEAR Probe (Credit: Tory Howe)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

SPEAR Probe – An Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration
Troy Howe
Howe Industries LLC

Nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) systems have the potential to provide a very effective transit mechanism to celestial bodies outside of the realm of solar power, yet the heavy power source and massive radiators required to justify a reactor core often push NEP spacecraft towards very large masses and major missions. If the total mass of an NEP system could be reduced to levels that were able to be launched on smaller vehicles, these devices could deliver scientific payloads to anywhere in the solar system.

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NASA Invests in Shapeshifters, Biobots & Other Visionary Technology


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is investing in technology concepts that include meteoroid impact detection, space telescope swarms, and small orbital debris mapping technologies that may one day be used for future space exploration missions.

The agency selected 25 early-stage technology proposals that have the potential to transform future human and robotic exploration missions, introduce new exploration capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

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NASA Contracts with BWXT Nuclear Energy to Advance Nuclear Thermal Propulsion

Credit: NASA

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As NASA pursues innovative, cost-effective alternatives to conventional propulsion technologies to forge new paths into the solar system, researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, say nuclear thermal propulsion technologies are more promising than ever, and have contracted with BWXT Nuclear Energy, Inc. of Lynchburg, Virginia, to further advance and refine those concepts.

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