Kilopower Could Power Long-Term Human Settlements in Space

In the future, a miniature nuclear reactor could power long-term human settlements on the Moon, Mars and beyond. Especially now that NASA has successfully completed tests of this reactor.

Asgardia believes that the creation of a new legal platform for the exploration of near-Earth and deep space is crucial to keep pace with humanity’s rapid technological and scientific expansion off-planet. One of the most intriguing scientific developments is how to generate power in space.

The system, known as kilopower, is a small, lightweight fission reactor which will be able to produce up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power. This is enough to run several households continuously for ten whole years. As NASA explained, only four of these reactors would be sufficient to power a Martian outpost.

An integral part of future long-term human space missions is having a reliable and efficient power system because this will enable outposts to be self-sufficient. The new reactor will generate the power needed for lighting, water and oxygen, as well as to power experiments and generate fuel.

By using kilopower reactors astronauts won’t have to take all the necessary resources with them, which will be the catalyst for opening up new possibilities for deep space exploration.

Kilopower could prove to be the most useful for the harsh environments of places such as the Moon and Mars. On these celestial bodies generating power using solar panels can be difficult. For example, on Mars, sunlight is limited by seasonal variation and periodic dust storms which can last for months. While night time on the Moon lasts about two weeks.

In a statement Lee Mason, NASA’s principal technologist for power and energy storage said that the agency is seeking a power source that can handle extreme environments. Kilopower opens up the full surface of Mars even the northern latitudes where there is the potential for water.

On the Moon, Kilopower could be used to help search find resources in permanently dark craters.

Kilopower is still a prototype but the first round of tests known as KRUSTY (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology)—which were performed at the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site were successful. The small reactor met or exceeded expectations on all measures, according to the researchers.

Kilopower is made of a solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core about the size of a paper towel roll, which generates heat that drives engines and produces electricity.

The goal of the recent tests, which included a 28-hour mission simulation, was to demonstrate that this set-up could generate electricity via nuclear fission, the splitting of atoms to produce energy. Moreover, the tests showed that the reactor was safe and stable in different environments.

Now NASA will conduct further tests on the reactor to prepare for flight-testing. In the future, Kilopower will play an essential role in the agency’s plans for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a proposed space station that will orbit the moon and serve as a base for expeditions further into the Solar System.

Are you interested in shaping the future of space? Then let your voice be heard! Take part in our discussion on a new legal platform for the exploration of space. Be part of the movement that will define the future of humanity’s off-planet expansion. Join Asgardia now.

When preparing news, materials from the following publications were used:



Image Credit: Natali_ Mis / Shutterstock


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