NASA Completed First-Full Power Tests of Portable Nuclear Reactor

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NASA completed its first-full power tests of portable nuclear reactor, according to a report published on May 2, 2018.

NASA and a number of other groups have been working on this small and portable nuclear reactor, which can generate power. This newly developed reactor is called as Kilopower. A basic toaster can be powered by lower power Kilopower systems and the largest version, a 10 kilowatt model can produce power much more than the low power systems.

Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator said, ‘Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power.” Researchers who developed Kilopower carried out a 20-hour, full-power test of the system in Nevada to confirm the performance that they had predicted. For the test, the environment was constructed like space and the system used was designed to be as flight-ready as possible.

While carrying out the test, the performance of the nuclear reactor exceeded the expectation of the researchers. It produced more thermal power in its steady state condition and maintained steady temperatures when faced with more extreme conditions.

This is the first new fission reactor that has been developed in the U.S. in over 40 years. Passive operations of this reactor, as it will not require human input once it starts functioning, are reliable.  From the results obtained through testing, Kilopower can be used for near-term space science. Researchers are further planning to conduct flight demonstrations, however, the time frame has not been revealed yet.

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