NASA has announced the names of three winners in a national contest to design concepts for nuclear power systems on the moon.
Working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), NASA selected three companies that designed concept proposals for a fission surface power system design. It could be ready to launch to the moon for a demonstration by the end of the decade.
Three companies awarded are IX, of Houston, Texas, Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, Maryland, and Westinghouse of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.
Each company will be awarded a $5 million contract to turn their initial design concepts into a "40-kilowatt class fission power system" that can provide power on the moon for at least 10 years.
NASA said fission systems are relatively small and lightweight compared to other power systems. Fission systems could also enable continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, and other natural environmental conditions.
"New technology drives our exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond," Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement. "Developing these early designs will help us lay the groundwork for powering our long-term human presence on other worlds."
NASA said the Phase 1 awards will provide them with critical information from industry that can lead to a joint development for a full flight-certified fission power system.