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The US is planning to send nuclear reactors into space



While the nuclear industry in the United States is struggling to survive, bogged down in public and political distrust, lower maintenance costs for nuclear waste, and a market flooded with cheap natural gas, the country has big plans for nuclear power outside its borders. Far outside.

In a few years, the United States will move nuclear reactors to the Moon and Mars. According to the team members of the Kilopower project, a NASA joint venture and the US Department of Energy, nuclear energy is only a few years from the beginning of the space age.

"The Kilopower project is a short-term technological effort to develop preliminary concepts and technologies that could be used for an affordable nuclear fission system to enable long-term stays on planetary surfaces," says NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "The focus of the Kilopower project is to use an experimental fission reactor to provide manned outposts on the Moon and Mars, so that researchers and scientists can stay and work for much longer than is currently possible.

While this sounds like something that comes directly from a sci-fi novel or the Twilight Zone, the Kilopower fission reactor has already passed its first ground tests with flying colors. Patrick McClure, project manager at Kilopower, says that this project will not only become a reality, it will be so in the near future. In a talk with NASA on Future In-Space Operations last month, McClure said, "I think we could do this in three years and get ready for the flight."

NASA's official stance is a little more conservative and does not provide accurate timetables. The Space Technology Mission Directorate merely states that "the Kilopower project team is developing mission concepts and implementing additional mitigation measures to prepare for a potential future flight demonstration," and that the potential of this demonstration is "paving the way" for the future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, and enable mission operations in harsh environments and missions where local propellants and other materials are produced using on-site resources. See also: Trump, OPEC Jawbone Oil In Opposite Directions

While this is not the first time that nuclear energy is being used to push ahead with reaching the final limit, this is the Kilopower Project a much more ambitious and powerful project than any of its predecessors. According to Space.com, nuclear power has been propelling spaceships for decades. The NASA Voyager 1

and Voyager 2, New Horizons and Curiosity Mars Rover probes and many other robotic researchers use thermoelectric radioisotope generators (RTGs) to convert the heat produced by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 into electricity. "

However, this model would not generate nearly enough energy to power an entire outpost with crew on Mars or on the Moon, which will have a much higher energy requirement. "The performance of RTGs is relatively low. For example, the power used by Curiosity and NASA's upcoming Mars 2020 rover will generate about 110 watts at the start of a mission. (This performance slowly decreases over time.) "

In contrast, the Kilopower prototype is a much more powerful source of energy. Futurism reports that the Kilopower prototype is about the size of a refrigerator and fits in a rocket. It could supply a base of about 40 kilowatts of power – about enough power for eight homes on earth. "The Kilopower prototype is also much more efficient. In last year's KROPPY soil tests (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology), the reactor type "converted 30 percent of the gap heat into electricity," Space.com reports. "This efficiency dwarfs that of RTGs, which convert about 7 percent of available heat."

If the Kilopower's first space tests actually start within the next three years and prove successful, this would lead to a complete success new era for space exploration, innovation and industry. The ability to take people into space for extended periods of time and to carry out larger and more ambitious projects than ever before will open the door to countless jobs that have until now been imaginative and to put a $ 400 billion space industry into action ,

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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