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Waspie_Dwarf

NASA's Kilopower Nuclear Reactor

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Waspie_Dwarf

Powering Up NASA’s Human Reach for the Red Planet

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NASA is pushing forward on testing a key energy source that could literally “empower” human crews on the Mars surface, energizing habitats and running on-the-spot processing equipment to transform Red Planet resources into oxygen, water and fuel.

The agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has provided multi-year funding to the Kilopower project. Testing is due to start in November and go through early next year, with NASA partnering with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nevada National Security Site to appraise fission power technologies.

arrow3.gif  Read More: NASA

 

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Waspie_Dwarf

Kilopower: What’s Next?

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When astronauts someday venture to the Moon, Mars and other destinations, one of the first and most important resources they will need is power. A reliable and efficient power system will be essential for day-to-day necessities, such as lighting, water and oxygen, and for mission objectives, like running experiments and producing fuel for the long journey home.

That’s why NASA is conducting experiments on Kilopower, a new power source that could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions.

This pioneering space fission power system could provide up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power -- enough to run two average households -- continuously for at least ten years. Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost.

arrow3.gif  Read More: NASA

 

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kartikg

I am thinking about the improvements it could bring to the nuclear power plants here on earth. 

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geraldnewfie

cant use something safe like solar? we ruined this planet already lets not ruin another

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paperdyer

I presume these reactors can also run heating, water purification on other systems.

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Waspie_Dwarf
1 hour ago, geraldnewfie said:

cant use something safe like solar? we ruined this planet already lets not ruin another

And covering large areas of the surface with solar panels would be less damaging than these nuclear reactors how exactly?

The NASA link in the second post I made says this:

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On Mars, the sun’s power varies widely throughout the seasons, and periodic dust storms can last for months. On the Moon, the cold lunar night lingers for 14 days.

And this:

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In these challenging environments, power generation from sunlight is difficult and fuel supply is limited. Kilopower is lightweight, reliable and efficient, which makes it just right for the job.

So no, they can't use solar.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
realised that this is now a front page article with a link to a different source.

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pallidin

Mini nuclear reactors, or even full scale, are the way to go with space/planetary "power plants"

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keithisco

I cant help thinking that NASA is "missing a trick" by not utilising the strong crustal magnetic fields that exist at the surface in many places. Magnetic flux can, of  course, be used to generate electrical charge and is not dependent on seasonal or atmospheric conditions. A few micro or even nanoTesla of flux could be sufficient to generate all their needs. 

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schroedingerscat

Our best solar panels have efficiencies of about 15%, and since Earth has a maximum solar flux of 1,000 w/m^2 at high noon on the equinoxes at the equator, when the sun is directly overhead, it would take 1 square meter of photovoltaics to generate 150 watts.  Seven square meters might run a toaster, and remember the AVERAGE irradiance on Earth is only 660 w/m^2.  Solar irradiance values for Mars are roughly half those for Earth, meaning that 14 square meters of photovoltaics might power a toaster.  Though solar may have its uses, we need higher power density systems for manned operations on Mars, and reactors like these could be a first start.

Edited by schroedingerscat

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schroedingerscat
On 1/19/2018 at 9:46 AM, paperdyer said:

I presume these reactors can also run heating, water purification on other systems.

The reactor would produce electricity at a far higher power density than photovoltaics, so yes, any process requiring electrical power could be implemented.

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pallidin
On 1/19/2018 at 4:10 PM, keithisco said:

I cant help thinking that NASA is "missing a trick" by not utilising the strong crustal magnetic fields that exist at the surface in many places. Magnetic flux can, of  course, be used to generate electrical charge and is not dependent on seasonal or atmospheric conditions. A few micro or even nanoTesla of flux could be sufficient to generate all their needs. 

Too weak. MUCH too weak.

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pallidin
17 hours ago, schroedingerscat said:

The reactor would produce electricity at a far higher power density than photovoltaics, so yes, any process requiring electrical power could be implemented.

Indeed, "energy" is extraordinary.

With enough of it (and a key is "enough"), and specialized systems/raw materials to utilize it, much is possible to convert/use high energy for many products needed for survival.

 

 

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schroedingerscat

What is sad, is that this is not new territory.  The USA was working on these systems over 50 years ago.  When I was a child, titles like these were available for FREE upon request from the US government, back when science was valued, and tax dollars were not wasted buying votes from special interest groups.

 

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Calibeliever

I remember the arguments against mounting plutonium on a rocket and blasting it through our atmosphere 40 years ago. It seemed overblown then and with decades of research behind us now I feel relatively safe putting these on a rocket. 40 years ago any story with the words "radioactive material" in it caused anxiety in the general population. As a kid who lived on the Pacific we regularly had nuclear drills where we were instructed to get under our desks (as if that would have done any good). Nuclear power plants were shrouded in mystery and were the source of a lot of conspiracy theories (some of them founded). If we are going to generate enough power to make a hostile terrain like Mars or the Moon habitable, there just aren't any better options I know of. 

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