Researchers at the Department of Energy of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are creating a mini nuclear reactor that could be used to power outposts on the Moon and Mars as well as other settlements on other planets. The team of scientists is planning to finish it by 2022 to conduct an in-flight test that year.
The name given to the nuclear reactor is Kilopower and is supposed to create 10 kilowatts of electrical power, which is most of the times capable of powering a large number of standard homes. Four such nuclear reactors have the potential of powering a space outpost for ten years.
The Moon, Mars, and many other space objects have extreme environments; therefore, astronomers would need a power source that can withstand such conditions.
Mini Nuclear Reactor For Future Outposts On The Moon And Mars Created By Scientists
The mini nuclear reactor is no bigger than a book, and it is built inside a unit, a prototype, nicknamed KRUSTY. It creates electricity with the help of passive sodium which heats pipes, and this heat is transmitted to Stirling engines which, in turn, transform the heat into electric power. A bright side of the Kilopower is that is can be installed anywhere on the surface of a planer or satellite as it does not need solar power to function.
The Kilopower has an opponent – the generator that has been used until now since the beginning of the space race, the radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). The RTG is also a mini nuclear reactor, but a shortcoming of it is that it can transform only 7% of fission heat into electricity in comparison with KRUSTY that can convert 30% of that heat into electric power.
NASA has planned that in the 2030s they would be able to build a manned settlement on the Moon and maybe Mars. Therefore KRUSTY with its Kilopower reactor came at the right time.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.