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NASA Testing Tiny, 1-KW Nuclear Reactors

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By Editors of Power Engineering

Tiny nuclear reactors producing between one and ten KW could help power NASA’s missions to Mars.

NASA’s Kilopower project began testing in the energy department’s Nevada National Security site in November, Reuters reported.

These reactors, which use a uranium-235 core the size of a paper towel roll, would help solve the dual problems of providing prolonged power operations at a long-term base and keeping power sources light enough to transport through space.

“Mars is a very difficult environment for power systems, with less sunlight than Earth or the moon, very cold nighttime temperatures, very interesting dust storms that can last weeks and months that engulf the entire planet,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA‘s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “So 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,” Jurczyk added.

Early tests on the system, known as KRUSTY, have been deemed “greatly successful.” A full-power test is scheduled for March. 

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