Westinghouse, Astrobotic team up on lunar plans for eVinci microreactor

June 5, 2023, 12:01PMNuclear News
(Photo: Nielander/WikiCommons)

Westinghouse Electric Company says its eVinci microreactor technology is “100 percent factory built and assembled before it is shipped in a container to any location.” And “any location” is not restricted to planet Earth, given the company’s goal of sending a scaled-down version of eVinci to the lunar surface or on a mission to provide power in other space applications.

Westinghouse Electric Company and Astrobotic announced on June 1 that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to “explore collaboration” on space technology programs for NASA and the Department of Defense, with a “focus on the development of space nuclear technology and delivery systems.” The collaboration would also strengthen the space nuclear supply chain and workforce around Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, according to Westinghouse.

Under contract: In June 2022, Westinghouse was one of three companies awarded a $5 million, 12-month NASA/DOE Phase 1 contract to provide an initial design concept for a fission lunar surface power system to support NASA’s Artemis program.

To meet the contract specs, which include a 40-kWe fission power system planned to last at least 10 years on the moon, Westinghouse is developing a scaled-down version of its 5-MWe eVinci heat pipe microreactor that it says could be operated autonomously for research and other applications. According to Westinghouse, the technology would be suited to electricity generation for the lunar surface, satellites, and electric propulsion.

Partnership benefits: Westinghouse announced in June 2022 that it would fulfill its NASA/DOE Phase 1 contract in partnership with Aerojet Rocketdyne and with support from Astrobotic. Astrobotic designs and deploys lunar landers and rovers, and is now developing LunaGrid, a commercial power service designed for the lunar south pole.

“Westinghouse is excited to partner with Astrobotic on delivering the next wave of innovative nuclear technology that is vital to advancing space exploration and supporting national defense missions,” said David Durham, Westinghouse president for energy systems.

“Astrobotic and Westinghouse have deep roots in Pittsburgh, and we are excited to leverage both companies’ capabilities to pioneer the future of space power technologies and services,” said John Thornton, Astrobotic chief executive officer.


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