US government paves way for the first nuclear reactor on moon
The nuclear reactor or the fission power system will benefit future human exploration and robotic missions to the moon as well as Mars.
The plan of the United States to have the first nuclear reactor on the moon by the end of the year 2026 got a push from the recent directive from the White House.
For the nuclear reactor plan, the US Department of Energy in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration intends on soliciting the industry design proposal in early 2021. In the latest directive by the White House, Donald Trump, the outgoing US President issued the ‘National Strategy for the Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion’.
Under it, NASA has been asked to initiate the fission power project for the moon surface demonstration by 2027. It will have the scalability to a power range of 40 kW-electric and higher to provide support to a sustained presence on the moon and exploration of the planet Mars.
What does the order from the White House states?
The order by the United States government emphasizes the need of developing uranium fuel processing capabilities that will enable the production of suitable for the planetary and lunar surface.
The development of uranium fuel processing capabilities is significant as the ability to use the propulsion systems and space nuclear power securely, safely, and sustainably is important for maintaining and advancing the United States leadership and dominance in space.
Significance of having a nuclear reactor in space:
NASA aims at establishing a flight hardware system that will be ready for integration with the lunar lander by the end of 2026.
The nuclear reactor or the fission power system will benefit future human exploration and robotic missions to the moon as well as Mars. The availability of efficient, safe, and readily available power is crucial to the missions and the fission surface power system meets those requirements.
Development of Fission Surface Power System:
• The Fission surface power system as the nuclear reactor is called will be assembled and completely manufactured on Earth and will be integrated on a lander as a payload.
• The system will be designed to operate and deploy from the playload platform after the lander arrives on the moon's surface.
• The system will be consisting of four major subsystems- a nuclear reactor, heat rejection array, an electric power conversion unit, and power management and distribution system. It will be designed and developed to operate for up to the time period of 10 years.
• All the safety requirements will be strictly followed. The fission process will be initiated only after the nuclear system lands on the moon on a command from the supervision on Earth.
• The Region of the moon where the reactor will be placed has been worked out.