Nuclear Reactor for Mars Outpost Could Be Ready to Fly by 2022


Artist’s illustration of a fission power system on the surface of Mars using four 10-kilowatt units. (Image: © NASA)

A new type of nuclear reactor designed to power crewed outposts on the moon and Mars could be ready for its first in-space trial just a few years from now, project team members said.

By Mike Wall | SPACE.com

A flight test is the next big step for the Kilopower experimental fission reactor, which aced a series of critical ground tests from November 2017 through March 2018. No off-Earth demonstration is on the books yet, but Kilopower should be ready to go by 2022 or so if need be, said Patrick McClure, Kilopower project lead at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

„I think we could do this in three years and be ready for flight,“ McClure said late last month during a presentation with NASA’s Future In-Space Operations working group. 

„I think three years is a very doable time frame,“ he added, stressing that this is his opinion, not necessarily that of NASA, which is developing the Kilopower project along with the DOE.

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