NASA awards $15M to team led by Vanderbilt-initiated startup Zeno Power to support lunar exploration
Zeno Power, a startup initiated through the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, is one of 11 American companies to receive funding from NASA to develop technologies that could support long-term exploration on the Moon and in space for the benefit of all, according to a NASA release.
Zeno Power is leading a team that will receive $15 million to develop a space-ready radioisotope Stirling generator that will be fueled by americium-241 for use during NASA’s Artemis missions. Artemis is intended to reestablish a human presence on the moon; people were last there more than 50 years ago. For this new era of human space exploration with a goal of sustained lunar presence, missions need a long-lasting, reliable energy source to operate in permanently shadowed regions and to survive the two-week-long lunar night. Such a power source hasn’t been available commercially until now.
In addition to Zeno, the team—called Harmonia—includes Blue Origin, Intuitive Machines, NASA Glenn Research Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Sunpower Inc. and the University of Dayton Research Institute.
“Project Harmonia will provide the technology to transform the moon from a location darkened by night and shadow to one enlightened by science and exploration, ultimately for the good of the nation and humankind,” said Tyler Bernstein, BE’20, co-founder and CEO of Zeno Power. “Zeno is excited to work with these industry leaders to bring both americium-241 and Stirling conversion technologies to the lunar surface for the first time.” Bernstein founded the company with two Vanderbilt alums, Chief Technology Officer Jake Matthews, MS’18 in mechanical engineering, and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Segal, BS’19.
Vanderbilt initiated startup Zeno Power receives $30M to build the first commercially developed nuclear–powered satellite, June 2023
Zeno Power: Vanderbilt’s NSF I-Corps team makes an impact through innovation, March 2021
CS undergrad exploring radioisotope power named to Forbes 30 Under 30 List, Feb. 2020
DC innovation showcase to feature student-led Zeno Power Systems, April 2019