NASA nuclear power system test in Nevada desert was a success

Brittany A. Roston - May 7, 2018, 8:39 pm CDT
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NASA nuclear power system test in Nevada desert was a success

In January, it was announced that NASA had teamed up with the US Department of Energy to test a nuclear power system called the Kilopower project. The test was set to be conducted in the Nevada desert, where researchers would fire up the system after having previously tested its individual components. That brings us to last month when officials from both agencies started the process.

The Kilopower fission reactor was fired up in recent days with officials testing whether it would work. The process happened at the Nevada National Security Site, specifically in a vacuum chamber where the system ran for 28 hours at full power. The test happened last month, but the Department of Energy didn’t release a statement on it until this past Wednesday.

Experts have spent five months working on Kilopower, a nuclear power system that may one day be used to provide astronauts with energy on the moon and Mars. The project seeks a compact solution to the problem, one that is reliable and capable of providing adequate enough amounts of energy, but also being small and portable enough to transport on space missions.

Kilopower was first conceived in 2012 when work started. In its present form, the system is able to generate just 3kW, but in the future a larger version will generate more energy. Rather than creating a system large enough to meet astronauts’ total needs, multiple smaller units can be linked together to scale up to various power needs.

Among other things, Kilopower doesn’t require a control panel or a coolant. Of note, though, is the amount of testing that still needs done. Though it has been tested on Earth, the Kilopower system hasn’t yet been tested in space. It isn’t yet known when the system may be launched for further testing.

SOURCE: Albuquerque Journal


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