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NASA getting excited about plutonium powered space missions

NASA Pushes for Nuclear-Powered Space Missions, Scientific American, 24 Jan 18,
The space agency’s Kilopower project could end a half-century hiatus for U.S. reactors in space,
 By Harrison TasoffSPACE.com on January 23, 2018  “…….

Unlike previous technologies, the Kilopower reactor is simple, inexpensive and relies on fuels and technologies that are already well understood, NASA officials said. It uses active nuclear fission, like a conventional nuclear reactor, which will enable it to harvest far more energy from its uranium alloy core than an RTG could…………

In 2012, Los Alamos National Laboratory and NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio conducted a successful proof-of-concept test of the reactor, and NASA gave them the go-ahead to continue development and testing at the Nevada National Security Site. Right now, the team is conducting component testing to determine the reactivity-worth of each of the reactor’s parts, namely how they react to the neutron radiation generated by the fission reaction. This phase of testing should be completed this week, according to officials at the conference. Then the project will progress to cold-critical testing, which will test the reactor’s components, this time with the enriched uranium fuel core inside, officials said at the conference. Full power testing is scheduled to begin in mid-March.

NASA’s interest in sending astronauts to Mars has provided the primary impetus behind the Kilopower project: The power demands for a human mission to Mars will be far greater than the requirements for previous robotic missions…..

“A successful Kilopower test will be a great leap forward for space nuclear power,” Jurczyk said…….https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nasa-pushes-for-nuclear-powered-space-missions/

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January 24, 2018 - Posted by | technology, USA

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