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The United States plans to send nuclear reactors into space

While the nuclear industry is struggling to stay afloat in the United States, trapped by public and political mistrust, crushing nuclear waste maintenance costs and a market flooded by cheap natural gas, the country has big plans for nuclear power beyond its domestic borders. The road outside.

In just a few years, the United States will deliver nuclear reactors to the moon and Mars. According to team members from the Kilopower Project, a partner from NASA and the US Department of Energy, nuclear energy is only a few years from entering the space age.

"The Kilopower project is a short-term technology effort to develop preliminary concepts and technologies that can be used for an affordable nuclear power system to enable long-term planetary living," NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate said. In layman's terms, the Kilopower project's focus is to use an experimental cleavage reactor to power manned outposts on the moon and Mars, allowing scientists and researchers to stay and work for much longer than is currently possible.

Although this may sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel or Twilight Zone, the Kilopower fission reactor has already passed its first ground test with flying colors. Kilopower project manager Patrick McClure says that not only will this project be a reality, it will be in a very near future. In a presentation with NASA's future operations in space Last month, McClure said, "I think we could do this in three years and be ready for flights."

NASA's official attitude is a little more conservative and gives no exact timelines. Its "Space Technology Mission Directorate" simply states that "the Kilopower project team develops mission concepts and performs additional risk mitigation activities to prepare for a possible future flight demonstration," and adds that the potential for this demonstration would be to "pave the way for future Kilopower systems which operates human outposts on the Moon and Mars, enabling mission operations in harsh environments and missions that rely on resource use in situ to produce local fuels and other materials. " Related: Trump, OPEC Jawbone Oil In Opposite Directions

Although this is not the first time nuclear energy has been used to drive the end goal, the Kilopower project is a much more ambitious and powerful project than any of its predecessors. decades NASA's Voyager 1

and Voyager 2 p Evils, New Horizon's spacecraft and Curiosity Mars rover, along with many other robotic explorers, use radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), which convert the heat thrown by the radioactive decay from plutonium-238 into electricity. "

However, this model would not produce nearly enough energy to power an entire manned outpost on Mars or the moon, which will have much more significant energy needs." The effect of RTGs is relatively low. The one used by Curiosity and NASA's upcoming March 2020 rover, for example, generates about 110 watts of electricity at the start of a mission. (This output is slowly declining over time.) "

However, 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 into a rocket. It can provide a base with about 40 kilowatts of power – about enough electricity for eight houses on earth." Last year's KROPY prototype is also much more efficient. (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology) ground tests, the prototype reactor "converted 30 percent of fission heat into electricity," reports Space.com. "This efficiency dwarfs the n at RTGs, which convert about 7 percent of available heat. "

If Kilopower's first space tests really start within the next three years, and if they prove successful, it would usher in a whole new era for space research, innovation and industry. The ability to put people in space for a longer period of time and power bigger and more ambitious projects than ever before will open the door to countless jobs that have been imaginative until now, which is what is already a space industry of $ 400 billion really taking off.

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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