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Contracts also signed by companies in US

The Kilopower fission power system being developed by SpaceNukes. Courtesy Nasa.

Framatome has created a new brand, Framatome Space, as it prepares to play “a decisive role” in the future of space exploration.

The French nuclear reactor company already supplies the space industry with domes for the tanks of launchers and hafnium for the hardened alloys for spacecraft.

The company said the space industry is looking to nuclear to facilitate faster and more efficient missions.

“Space is enjoying renewed interest across the globe and a whole new generation is set to embark on a new age of space travel,” a statement said. “Future space exploration can be enabled or enhanced by nuclear power

Framatome said nuclear propulsion can offer higher speeds, greater efficiency and can significantly reduce the time needed to reach Mars.

“Nuclear power could also provide electricity enabling the development of a suitable environment for a sustained human presence on the Moon,” the company said.

USNC Wins $5 Million Nasa Contract

In another space-related development for the nuclear sector, Seattle, US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation has been awarded a $5m (€4.7m) contract by Nasa to develop nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) systems for “cislunar” expedition between the Earth and the Moon.

USNC said it will manufacture and test advanced, proprietary fuel the company has developed. It will also work with its commercial partner, Blue Origin, to mature the design of an NTP engine specifically optimised for near-term civil science and cislunar missions.

SpaceNukes Signs Partnership For Jetson Project

The Los Alamos, US-based Space Nuclear Power Corporation, known as SpaceNukes, has partnered with Lockheed Martin Corporation and BWX Technologies for the US’s Jetson nuclear electric propulsion demonstration project.

The Jetson effort, managed by the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico began in 2022 and was formally launched with solicitations for spacecraft concepts that might employ nuclear fission reactors.

SpaceNukes is developing Kilopower, a small, lightweight fission power system capable of providing various ranges of power depending on the need. Low-kilowatt reactors could power deep space missions, middle-range reactors in the tens of kilowatts could power a lunar or Martian habitat, and much larger reactors in the hundreds of kilowatts could make enough propellant for a rocket to return to Earth after a stay on Mars.

In 2020, the US government’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico signed an agreement to licence the Kilopower space reactor technology to SpaceNukes, a move it said would speed up development of the technology.

Date: Saturday, 21 October 2023
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