NASA, Kilopower reactor

NASA along with US Department of Energy has developed a new kind of reactor, and it is named as Kilopower reactor which can be used for space exploration missions.  A demonstration for the Kilopower reactor was done, and the test result was successful.

NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have announced that the results of the demonstration for the Kilopower Reactor using Sterling Technolgy (KRUSTY) experiment is successful at a news conference on May 2nd at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. 

James Reuter who is the Acting Associate Administrator for the NASA’s Space Technolgy Mission Directorate said that“When we go to the Moon and eventually on to Mars, we are likely going to need large power sources not dependent on the sun.If we want to live off the land. The Kilopower design we tested is ingenious in the way it is designed, for simplicity of operations, but also for scalability. While we tested it a 1-kilowatt power production, it is scalable to 10 kilowatts without any large impact on its overall size. So that makes a nice building block as we go forward.”

The main aim of the NASA’s Kilopower project is to build a kind of technology which can be used in fission nuclear power system which will help the astronauts to have the longer trips to planets. It is small but is capable of delivering about 10 kilowatts of electrical power which can give power to many households for at least ten years.

The system uses a solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core which is like a size of a paper towel roll. Sodium heat pipes help in transferring the heat of reactor to high-efficient Stirling engines which help in converting the heat to electricity.

The design of kilo power fission design is different from the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG) which has been used in previous space programs like Horizons, Galileo, and Cassini. Marc Gibson, who is the NASA Glenn’s Kilopower Lead Engineer told to Spaceflight Insider that, They are very different in the way they produce heat, “One of the things we find very interesting about the fission side. If we’ve got a fifteen-year mission to a Kuiper Belt object or something and it takes a long time to arrive, you don’t have to start the reactor up until we get there. So we don’t start the life of the power system until we want it.  We’re also able to turn down the power and turn up the power. We can go from 1,000 watts all the way down to 50 or 40 watts, depending on the demands of the spacecraft, and that lowers how much fuel we use.”


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