Lunar Power System Team Wins President’s Award

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — In preparation of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon by 2028, NASA is developing new technologies that will let astronauts land, live and explore the surface. In this video, Marc Gibson of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland describes Kilopower, a power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces, including the Moon and Mars.

A team of engineers from NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration proved the system in a test called the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) demonstration last May.

This week, the KRUSTY team, including Gibson and Lee Mason, NASA’s principal technologist for power and energy storage, won a Gears of Government President’s Award for the accomplishment.

Kilopower is a small, light-weight fission power system capable of providing up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power — enough to run several average households continuously for at least 10 years. Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost on the Moon or Mars.

According to Gibson, the Kilopower lead engineer, the pioneering power system is ideal for the Moon, where power generation from sunlight is difficult because lunar nights are equivalent to 14 days on Earth.

The power source is designed to handle extreme environments. “On the Moon, Kilopower could be deployed to help search for resources in permanently shadowed craters,” said Mason. “Kilopower also opens up the full surface of Mars, including the northern latitudes where water may reside.”

Building on the successful ground demonstration in 2018, the team is evaluating concepts for a future flight or lunar surface demonstration mission. Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars and enable astronauts to produce fuel, breathable air, water and other materials using planetary resources.

The Gears of Government Awards recognize individuals and teams across the federal workforce whose dedication supports exceptional delivery of key outcomes for the American people, specifically around mission results, customer service and accountable stewardship.

  • P.K. Sink

    I like it. Call Amazon…I mean Blue Origin. Let’s get this puppy delivered to the Moon.

  • TheBrett

    Excellent news. We could definitely use a few not just for a Moon or Mars mission, but for some outer solar system missions if it can last long enough.

  • Cluebat Vanexodar

    I approve. Now the No Nuke Nuts will be coming out of the woodwork.

  • Cluebat Vanexodar

    I wonder if this technology will be shared with commercial operators. As I have said before (maybe not here) SLS will be the preferred option for these types of loads. I hope something is worked out, but government commitees have a vested self-interest.

  • duheagle

    Everything NASA does is supposed to be available to American businesses. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean DOE is going to hand out enriched uranium to Mrs. Frisby’s Screen Door and Nuclear Space Reactor Co.

  • WhoAmI

    There will be a lot less controversy over this, since it doesn’t have the NIMBY effect — at least not until Bezos puts those O’Neil cylinders up there. 🤣

  • ThomasLMatula

    Why? Do you think that just because it’s a NASA design it is somehow safer? Who knows what failure modes lurk in the new SRB and the modified recycled SME it’s uses.

  • Cluebat Vanexodar

    Pretty much for the reason duheagle states. DOE and other agency restrictions. Although I do agree about the fuel transport. Probably particle bed reactor fuel, which is inherently safe under normal conditions.

  • Cluebat Vanexodar

    I encourage diversity in power sources. But it is important that a reliable set of them will work in the dark. There is going to be a rush to grab the sunny peaks. Especially if they happen to be adjacent to suspected mineral deposits.

  • Cluebat Vanexodar