Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse Government Services, and Intuitive Machines have all been awarded contracts by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to flesh out nuclear fission solutions for spacecraft. Awarded under the AFRL's Joint Emergent Technology Supplying On-orbit Nuclear Power (JETSON) program, the contractors will be tasked with maturing fission to provide reliable power to extend the range and capabilities of spacecraft in the future. Perhaps even enable them to operate long-term closer to the Moon than Earth.

JETSON was first mentioned in late 2022 and officially inaugurated in January of this year (2023) under a series of solicitations from AFRL. Both of these solicitations called on industry suppliers for “spacecraft concepts and design descriptions that employ nuclear fission reactors, electric, or hybrid propulsion subsystems, and related support systems in critical areas such power conversion, PMAD [power management and distribution], on-orbit mobility, thermal regulation, deployable structures, radiation shielding, and electronic hardening.”

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