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US Plans for the Deployment of Nuclear Reactors in Space



While nuclear power struggles to stay afloat in the United States, sunk by public and political mistrust, crushing the cost of keeping nuclear waste and the market flooded with cheap natural gas, the country has major plans for nuclear power beyond its domestic borders. . Road outside.

In just a few years, the United States will ship nuclear reactors to the Moon and Mars. According to members of the Kilopower project team, a joint venture by NASA and the United States Department of Energy, nuclear energy is just a few years away from heading into the space age.

"The Kilopower project is a short-term technological effort to develop advanced concepts and technologies that could be used for an affordable nuclear fission system for fission purposes to ensure long-term stay on planetary surfaces," says the Space Mission NASA technologies. " "For the average person, the focus of the Kilopower project is to use an experimental fission reactor to power the crews of the Moon and Mars crews, allowing researchers and scientists to stay and work for much longer than is possible right now.

While this may sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel or the Twilight Zone, the Kilopower fission reactor has already passed its initial ground tests with flying colors. Kilopower project manager Patrick McClure says that not only will this project become a reality, but in the near future. In a presentation with NASA's future space operations last month, McClure said, "I think we could do that in three years and be ready to fly."

The official position of NASA is a little more conservative, it does not provide exact deadlines. His "Space Technology Mission Directorate" simply states that "the Kilopower project team is developing mission concepts and performing additional risk mitigation activities to prepare for a possible future demonstration of flights," adding that the potential of this demonstration would be "to pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power the human outposts of the Moon and Mars, allowing mission operations in heavy environments and missions that rely on the use of on-site resources to produce local fuels and other materials. " Directions

While this is not the first time that nuclear energy has been used to power persecution to the limit, the Kilopower project is a far more ambitious and powerful project than any of its predecessors . According to Space.com, "nuclear energy has been powering spacecraft for decades. NASA's Voyager 1

and Voyager 2 probes, the New Horizons spacecraft, and the Curiosity Mars rover, along with many other research robots, use radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) to convert the heat released from the plutonium-238 radioactive decay into electricity. "

However, this model would not produce nearly enough energy to power an entire Mars or Moon crew that would have much more significant energy needs. "The power output of RTGs is relatively low. The one used by Curiosity and NASA's upcoming Mars 2020 rover generates about 110 watts of power at the beginning of the mission. (This output is slowly decreasing over time.)

In contrast, the Kilopower prototype is a much more powerful energy source. Futurism reports that the Kilopower prototype is the size of a refrigerator and fits into a rocket. It could provide a base of about 40 kilowatts of power – about enough electricity for eight houses on Earth. "The Kilopower prototype is also much more efficient. In last year's KRUSTY ground tests (Kilopower Reactor, using Stirling Technology), the prototype reactor "converts 30 percent of the fission heat into electricity," Space.com reports. "It's the efficiency of dwarfs from RTGs that convert about 7 percent of the heat available."

If the first Kilopower tests really start within the next three years, and if they prove successful, it will lead to a whole new era for space research, innovation and industry. The ability to place humans in space for a longer period of time and power bigger and more ambitious projects than ever before will open the door to countless activities that were purely imaginary before, making what is already the space industry worth $ 400 billion really off.

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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