US-based Westinghouse Electric Company and Astrobotic have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore collaboration on space technology programmes for NASA and the Department of Defense. The focus will be on space nuclear technology and delivery systems and will also include strengthening the space nuclear supply chain and workforce in the Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia regions.
In 2022, Westinghouse was awarded a NASA/Department of Energy (DOE) contract for an initial design concept for a fission lunar surface power system. The company is developing a scaled-down version of the 5 MWe eVinci microreactor to power spacecraft in orbit or to provide power on the surface of planetary bodies such as the Moon or Mars. Astrobotic is an industry leader in designing and deploying lunar landers and rovers, and is now developing LunaGrid, a commercial power service designed for the lunar south pole.
The eVinci microreactor is a transportable reactor that is fully factory built, fuelled and assembled, and capable of delivering combined heat (up to 13 MWt) and power (up to 5 MWe). Westinghouse says its small size allows for standard transportation methods and rapid, on-site deployment, with superior reliability and minimal maintenance, making it suitable for use in remote locations. It will use TRISO fuel. It is one of several advanced reactor designs being supported through DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Project to help accelerate the development and deployment of new reactor technologies. In February, Westinghouse filed a Notice of Intent to submit key licensing reports for eVinci to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for joint review.
Image: Westinghouse wants to convert its terrestrial modular nuclear technology for use in space (courtesy of Westinghouse)