Spaceflight Insider

NASA asking for fission power design concepts for Moon missions

An artist's concept of a fission power system on the surface of Mars. Credit: NASA

An artist’s concept of a fission power system on the surface of Mars. Credit: NASA

As humanity moves toward the very real possibility of becoming a multi-planet species, the need for safe and reliable energy not only arises on Earth, but especially so in outer space.

As NASA’s Artemis program progresses, the agency is calling on industry and the Department of Energy to help it in its ever-increasing need for a reliable energy source in deep space.

If NASA is going to power a base on the Moon or Mars, the energy system must be powerful, compact and reliable with the ability to run around the clock. Fission is a tried and true energy source that might meet the needs of an interplanetary life-supporting facility.

Fission is an energy conversion process by which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller nuclei, thus producing gamma photons and emitting large amounts of energy. While the output might be quite large, the initial energy input is relatively small and will not require multiple trips by cargo spacecraft in order to build.

“Plentiful energy will be key to future space exploration,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, which funds NASA’s fission surface power project. “I expect fission surface power systems to greatly benefit our plans for power architectures for the Moon and Mars and even drive innovation for uses here on Earth.”

In the months ahead, NASA and the Department of Energy will select several companies to compete by completing initial concept designs over a year-long period. The winning design might very well be a concept of what NASA will use in order to provide sustainable electricity on the Moon or Mars.

Video courtesy of NASA


Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.

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