Request for Information Fission Surface Power
A reliable, durable energy source is a crucial element to enable the long-duration exploration of space and allow sustainable human presence in the harsh space environment. Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA), management and operating contractor of the Idaho National Laboratory, in collaboration with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), puts forth this request for information (RFI) on innovative technologies and approaches for preliminary designs of a fission surface power (FSP) system to test and validate operation on the Moon.
This RFI will inform a subsequent request for proposals (RFP) for Phase 1, which will culminate with a preliminary design of a FSP engineering demonstration unit (FSP-EDU). NASA intends to sponsor a second competitive procurement for Phase II, which will include a final FSP design together with manufacturing, construction, and ground testing of a prototype FSP-EDU. Phase II will culminate with an additional test-qualified FSP flight system (FSP-FS) delivered to the launch site for deployment to the Moon. The RFI seeks responses from industry manufacturers and partnerships capable of designing, building, and operating the FSP-EDU and FSP-FS. The prototype FSP-EDU will resemble to the greatest extent practicable all aspects and features of an actual subsequent FSP-FS for deployment to the Moon, which must include extensibility to Mars.
Additionally, this RFI seeks responses which clearly detail specific technology maturation challenges, development risks, and tradeoffs associated with leveraging mature technologies versus developing nascent technologies. NASA, DOE, and BEA plan to take advantage of industry's engineering design processes and practices throughout Phase I and Phase II, and will establish performance metrics for demonstrated operational reliability and robustness. BEA recommends that respondents consider forming partnerships to provide fully informed industry responses. The planned solicitation presumes industry partnerships will need to be formed with sources that have demonstrated capabilities in nuclear energy, power conversion systems and radiators and space flight hardware systems development, integration, launch and operation.
NASA, DOE, and BEA anticipate hosting a Government-Industry technical meeting via webcast in August 2020, an "Industry Day," to facilitate further communications regarding the expectations of the complete program to develop and demonstrate the FSP-EDU and final FSP-FS for deployment to the Moon.
As space exploration operations go further and for longer periods of time, it is crucial that NASA provide energy sources that are more durable, resilient, and reliable than ever before. Small nuclear reactors can provide the power capability necessary for space exploration missions of interest to the Federal government. NASA, through the Nuclear Fission Power Project, has identified the need for a FSP system to provide reliable, durable energy for an installation on the Moon. The NASA Glenn Research Center under the auspices of the Space Technology Mission Directorate's Technology Demonstration Mission Program Office manages the Nuclear Fission Power Project and the development of a lunar FSP as a technology demonstration mission.
It is critical that the FSP-FS is designed so that it is extensible to operation on the Martian surface without significant redesign or modification. Extensibility from a lunar demonstration to a longer-duration Mars operation needs to be incorporated into the design of the FSP-EDU and FSP-FS. An extensible design means that the hardware systems for the lunar demonstration provide a framework and the functionality to operate on the Martian surface at a similar power output without further technology development. Since the lunar demonstration is expected to inform the operational efficacy of the FSP system for Mars, minor engineering design modifications may be required. Though the communications system and the user interface for electrical power may differ for Mars, impact to the FSP design should be minimal. Additionally, a sustainable human presence on the Moon and the Mars architecture may require multiple FSP systems connected in parallel to increase the total available power.
Engineering Demonstration Unit (EDU) is a high-fidelity unit that demonstrates critical aspects of the engineering processes involved in the development of the operational unit. The EDU closely resembles the final product (hardware/software) in form, fit and function to the maximum extent possible and is built and tested so as to establish confidence that the design will function in the expected environments.
Flight System (FS) is the actual developmental end item that is intended for deployment and operations. It is subjected to formal functional and environmental acceptance testing.
For purposes of this RFI, BEA, in collaboration with NASA and DOE, seeks information regarding how the private sector may approach preliminary designs of the FSP system to achieve the following goals:
Anticipated Program Outline
- Flight System Power Output Goal: Develop the FSP system with the capability of providing uninterrupted electricity output of not less than 10 kilowatts at the interface end of a 1-kilometer cable. The FSP system should provide 120 V (direct current) at the user interface of the end of a 1-kilometer cable. BEA recommends that respondents design the FSP system to be scalable upwards to maximize power without significant design change and capable of operating as one of multiple interconnected modules as part a larger power system.
- Flight System Mass Goal: Develop the FSP system with the goal of minimizing system mass, with a stretch goal of 2000 kg and a not-to-exceed maximum of 3500 kg. These masses should include mass growth allowances allocated per ANSI/AIAA S-120A-2015, Mass Properties Control for Space Systems. The lower mass goal permits the flight unit to be carried on a commercial lunar payload services (CLPS) lander or as part of the payload on the descent stage of the human landing system (HLS) lander. The system design needs to include a radiation shield and additional associated mass. Respondents are encouraged to include a mass of equipment list. The mass of equipment list should include a detailed mass breakdown of the FSP system to the component level. Respondents are also encouraged to design the FSP system to be capable of surviving vehicle launch and lunar landing loads as a complete flight unit.
- Environmental Suitability Goal: The FSP system is intended to support exploration in the south polar region of the Moon. The specific region(s) of Mars are yet to be determined. The FSP-FS should accommodate the environments and surface conditions associated with both of these destinations.
- Operational Goal: Develop the FSP system with capability of operating autonomously, with the capability of autonomous or commanded on/off cycles. Develop the FSP system to be capable of surviving a single credible failure without reducing electric power capacity by more than 50%. This design objective flows from essential power needs on the Moon or Mars following a component failure. BEA also encourages respondents to develop the FSP system for a minimum operational life of not less than 10 years at full electric power output.
- Extensibility Goal: Develop the FSP system for direct extensibility to meet flight design needs as well as functional capabilities and modular interface requirements for operations on Mars.
- Technology Maturation Goal: Develop the FSP preliminary design for potential transition under a separate Phase II solicitation for manufacture and construction of a FSP-EDU, capable of demonstrating all design goals for launch and lunar operations and enabling a test-qualified FSP-FS for launch readiness no later than December 31, 2026. Respondents are also encouraged to provide analysis, test data, and other supporting evidence that demonstrates the technology readiness assessment of the system for a flight demonstration.
- Radiation Protection Goal: Identify a suite of potential solutions for the FSP system to protect human life and critical electronics from reactor-created radiation.
- Critical Communication Goal: Develop a flight system capable of full operations from Earth.
BEA may award up to three (3) different FSP preliminary designs under Phase I. BEA anticipates that Phase I will last a duration of 9 months, including a defined schedule with specific milestones of achievement. Throughout both phases of this program, awardees must present their progress such that BEA may verify specific milestones.
Phase II will consist of a second competitive procurement process, not limited to submissions from Phase I awardees. Phase II will encompass a final FSP design as well as manufacturing, construction, and ground testing of a prototype FSP-EDU. Phase II will culminate with a subsequent test-qualified FSP-FS delivered to the launch site for deployment to the Moon.