NASA Successfully Demonstrates Nuclear Fission Reactor Power System

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NASA has successfully demonstrated the working of its Kilopower Nuclear Fission Reactor - a system created to power bases on moon, Mars, and beyond and make deep-space exploration a reality.

NASA's Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (Krusty) experiment tested the reactor, a small and lightweight fission system potentially capable of powering outposts for at least 10 years.

The Kilopower nuclear power plant project was aimed toward providing power during missions of extended duration to the Earth's moon, to Mars and beyond, Fox News reported.

'I expect the Kilopower project to be an essential part of lunar and Mars power architectures as they evolve'.

The power system is ideal for the Moon, where power generation from sunlight is hard because lunar nights are equivalent to 14 days on Earth, according to Marc Gibson, the lead Kilopower engineer.

Kilopower would allow NASA to explore shadowed craters on the moon and send the astronauts out for long stays on the surface.

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The KRUSTY fission system uses a solid cast uranium-235 reactor core, about the size of a paper towel roll, with eight notches around its perimeter, fitted to the passive sodium heat pipes that transfer reactor heat to the high efficiency Stirling engines, which convert the heat to electricity. In addition, was lost a scenario with the failure of various systems of the reactor, in particular, the destruction of the heat pipes, stop the engines.

The Kilopower instrument is nonetheless a prototype now but it will be critical for space exploration missions in which astronauts are unable to carry sufficient provisions with their ship and have to generate their own electricity once they've got to another planet.

'When we go to the moon, and eventually on to Mars, we are likely going to need large power sources and not rely on the sun, ' Jim Reuter, Nasa's acting associate administrator for space technology, explained Wednesday during a news briefing at Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland, Ohio.

Krusty has been under development for a few years now and extensive testing started in November of 2017, reports NASA.

Dave Poston, chief reactor designer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, described the unit as the first fission reactor to be developed by the U.S. in over 40 years. Most nuclear reactors require entire factories to house and run them, therefore, if a reasonably transportable system can be developed further, it could solve many problems. The test has also proven that the system is safe no matter what environment it operates in. "We showed we can design, build, and test the reactor for less than $20 million".

Even besides using it in space, the system Kilopower signifies a major breakthrough for nuclear energy. The next step will be flight testing to see how this system will work in space. Cole reached out to SpaceFlight Insider and asked to join SFI as the first member of the organization's "Team Glenn".