Washington: The United States is planning to send the nuclear reactors in space to extend the lifespan of space missions without obstacles. The US space agency, NASA and the Department of Energy, are currently working on the project. Some preliminary tests have been completed, and the NASA officials claimed that it would be possible to send the nuclear reactors in space by 2022. Limited use of nuclear power was already made since 1970, although this would be the first effort to ship a full-fledged nuclear reactor in space.
From the year 2015, the US space agency NASA initiated work on a plan named ‘Kilopower Project’. The fission reactors capable of producing 1 to 10 kilowatts of power are being developed under the project. Also, Uranium 235 is being used as fuel for the reactors. The plan envisions developing nuclear reactors that are capable of supplying continuous power for space missions, lasting for a minimum of 10 to 15 years.
Patrick McClure, the lead of the Kilopower project, claimed that the process would be completed in the next three years and that they would be ready to send a nuclear reactor in space. The Space Technology Mission Directorate of NASA has indicated that the nuclear reactors could be used to power the future human outposts to be established on the Moon and Mars.
As per experts, although the use of nuclear power in space is not new, making use of energy produced with the use of a Fission Reactor, makes it a very ambitious project. Nuclear power had been used in essential space missions like the ‘Voyager 1’ and ‘Curiosity Mars Rover’. Nevertheless, ‘Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators’ (RTG) technology was used in the missions. The missions harnessed the power generated using the Radioisotopes.
Albeit, the Kilopower project employs the ‘Sterling Technology’ and would be using Uranium to generate power. The power thus generated would also be used with the help of the Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP) technology for making launches of spacecraft.
In the last few years, the world powers such as the United States, Russia and China have hinted at an ambitious project to set up human colonies on the Moon and Mars. On the sidelines of the developments, creating a continuous power source in space by sending a nuclear reactor, becomes significant.