NASA has plans to send a nuclear reactor to space. It has already completed testing of the same successfully. If things go according as per the plan, this breakthrough will pave the way for powering missions to Moon and Mars using nuclear energy.
The tests that have been conducted have turned out successful beyond expectation. Thus the space-bound reactor looks quite promising, according to researchers. Scientists claim that this forms the first step in sending technology capable of delivering “Kilopower” energy to space. It will enable the use of fission to facilitate and power future exploration missions in space. It will also be followed up by flight tests to gauge how such systems will perform in space, according to NASA.
The agency believes that in the future, it could make use of these power plants by sending them to power missions on the Moon and Mars. On missions of long duration, using traditional techniques to provide energy for the people and operations is not viable. Nuclear reactors can solve this problem by producing large quantities of energy without needing to refuel them. It can do so safely since the fuel within the reactor is stored carefully and is slightly radioactive up to the time the reactor is turned on. Hence it can be transported to space without posing a hazard to the people as well as other equipment carried along with it.
Once switched on, it will supply reliable power to be used by the people without requiring additional input, researchers said in a press conference. It is of utmost importance during missions that last for a long time and need a fuel source which is dependable. According to James Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, missions to Moon and Mars will need high power sources which do not draw its power from the Sun.
When the nuclear reactor is exhaustively used, which will take a few centuries, it will stay on the planet where it was sent to, for example, Mars. But researchers emphasized that the reactor is designed in such a way such that the waste produced will be contained and not pollute the surrounding area. Apart from the implications in space exploration, Kilopower system is a breakthrough in the field of nuclear power as well. In the past 40 years of US history, it happens to be the first nuclear reactor to look after the nation’s atomic equipment, according to Dave Poston, National Nuclear Security Administration.