New Delhi: President Donald Trump has issued a new space policy directive that will help propel NASA and humanity’s next giant leap by creating a sustainable presence on the Moon and sending astronauts to Mars.
The president issued the Space Policy Directive-6 (SPD-6), the National Strategy for Nuclear Energy and Space Propulsion (SNPP) on Wednesday, December 16. Nuclear space systems power spacecraft for missions where alternative energy sources are inadequate, such as environments too dark for solar power or too far away to carry sufficient quantities of chemical fuels. Space nuclear systems include radioisotope power systems and nuclear reactors used for powering, heating or propulsion. SPD-6 sets goals, principles and a high-level roadmap that demonstrate the U.S. commitment to use SNPP systems safely, effectively and responsibly.
NASA strongly supports the White House’s continued leadership on the agency’s Artemis program, which includes the landing of the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024. On the moon, we will prepare for new scientific and human missions deeper into the solar system NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “SPD-6 strengthens the agency’s efforts to develop cost-effective, safe and reliable nuclear systems, including technology that can continuously power operations on other worlds and launch future human missions to Mars.”
In support of SPD-6, NASA’s short-term priority is to mature and then demonstrate a fission surface power system on the Moon. NASA, the Department of Energy, and industry will design, manufacture and test a 10-kilowatt-class fission surface power system. NASA plans to demonstrate the system on the moon in the late 1920s, providing power for sustainable operations on the lunar surface and testing its potential for use on Mars.
The space agency is also improving thermal and nuclear nuclear propulsion capabilities. Nuclear propulsion can enable robust human exploration beyond the moon. For manned missions to the Red Planet, a traditional chemical propulsion system would require prohibitive propellant mass. In addition to reducing risk and the maturation of reactor designs, NASA is part of an effort with the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to develop nuclear fuel production technologies and capabilities for propulsion systems.
SPD-6 establishes the following principles:
The United States will pursue goals for the development and use of SNPPs that are both enabling and ambitious:
Develop capabilities that enable the production of fuel suitable for a range of planetary and space SNPP applications;
Demonstrate a fission power system on the Moon;
Establish technical foundations and capabilities that will allow options for nuclear propulsion in space; is
Develop advanced radioisotope power systems to enable surviving surface systems and extend robotic exploration of the solar system.
The United States will adhere to the principles of safety, security and sustainability in the development and use of SNPP systems.
The United States will pursue a coordinated roadmap for federally supported SNPP activities and a framework to encourage businesses to achieve the goals and uphold the principles set out in the directive.