Nuclear Power in Space, with Tyler Bernstein (Zeno Power)


Today’s Pathfinder episode features Tyler Bernstein, the cofounder and CEO of Zeno Power, a developer of radioisotope power systems (RPS) for the space and maritime industries.


Nuclear technology is having its moment, according to Zeno Power cofounder and CEO Tyler Bernstein.

NASA has used radioisotope tech since the 1960s, but the systems have historically been too expensive and heavy to be widely used. Zeno Power, which develops radioisotope power systems (RPS) that are lighter, more efficient, and more cost-effective than legacy systems, is trying to change that.

How it works? Zeno Power’s RPS works by converting the heat from decaying radioisotopes into electricity. Its initial system uses Strontium-90 (Sr-90), an abundant and affordable fuel that has been used in thousands of legacy RPSs. The core innovation is in the fuel design and shielding technology, a key issue given Sr-90’s radioactive properties.

The company has had a recent string of commercial successes, including a number of unannounced contracts, but some of the public wins are:

  • A $30M STRATFI contract awarded in May to build a radioisotope-powered satellite for the U.S. Air Force by 2025.
  • A $15M NASA Tipping Point award to develop an Americium-241 (Am-241) radioisotope Stirling generator (RSG) for long-duration lunar missions.

This week’s Pathfinder episode features Tyler Bernstein, Zeno Power’s CEO. The company was founded in 2018 by Tyler and two other Vanderbilt undergrads after working on a project to design a nuclear reactor for a Boeing 777. 

Today, Mo and Tyler discuss:

  • Zeno Power’s origin story
  • A brief history of nuclear power in space
  • The benefits of using radioisotope power systems
  • The future of fission and fusion
  • And much more…

This episode is brought to you by Epsilon3, software for complex engineering, testing, and operational procedures. Learn more at

• Chapters • 

00:00 – Intro and Ad Break

01:46 – Who is Tyler Bernstein and what is Zeno Power?

02:53 – Nuclear powered 777

05:42 – How are nuclear reactors used today?

11:42 – A history of nuclear in space

14:04 – Nuclear regulations

17:48 – Zeno’s core product and customer

21:33 – Disposal and containment during development

22:44 – Cost effectiveness vs traditional power systems

24:43 – Epsilon3 Ad Break

25:12 – Future of nuclear in space

28:37 – Customer targets outside of space

29:41 – Zeno’s competitors

31:56 – Building a team around nuclear

38:05 – Zeno’s products in 10 years

39:55 – State of nuclear energy today and its regulations

43:57 – Fusion vs Fission

46:19 – Other exciting space companies?