The researchers at NASA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Department of Energy have announced that they’ve successfully conducted the first tests of a small nuclear power reactor named Kilopower.
NASA describes Kilopower as a low cost, compact, nuclear fission reactor that can be used for scalable applications from 1kW to 10kW.
By using available U-235 as fuel and passive sodium heat pipes, this reactor will provide about 10X more power than Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator. Moreover, these reactors are lightweight, reliable, and dependable.
In a guest post on Space.com, NASA scientists have shared more interesting details about the project. As per them, to run a habitat effectively on Mars and create fuel, about 40kW power would be needed. So, the space agency would have to send four to five reactors to Mars. Find more information in this PDF presentation.
The experiments to test Kilopower began late last year, and the tests of a flight-like reactor core will take place this spring. NASA aims to further explore the potential of nuclear energy for a long-term habitat on other planets. If things turn out to be well, it’ll solve a big issue faced by space missions while exploring our solar system.
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