Dec. 28, 2020

USA’s plan to have the first nuclear reactor on the moon by the end of 2026 — for which the US Department of Energy in collaboration with Nasa intends to solicit industry design proposals in early 2021 — got an impetus with a recent White House directive.


  • On December 16, outgoing President Donald Trump, issued the “National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion”.

  • Under it, he asked Nasa to “initiate fission surface power project for lunar surface demonstration by 2027 with scalability to a power range of 40 kilowatt-electric and higher to support a sustained lunar presence and exploration of Mars”.

  • NASA aims to establish a flight hardware system that is ready for integrating with the lunar lander by 2026-end. The fission power system — as the nuclear reactor is called — will benefit future robotic and human exploration missions to the moon as well as Mars.

  • The availability of safe, efficient, and readily available power is critical to these missions and a fission surface power system meets those requirements.

  • The fission surface power system will be fully manufactured and assembled on earth and integrated on a lander as a payload.

  • The system — consisting of four major subsystems including a nuclear reactor, an electric power conversion unit, heat rejection array, and power management and distribution subsystem — will be designed to operate for up to 10 years.