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Krusty experiment's prototype passes the first test

Nasa and Nnsa work on a nuclear reactor for Mars e Moon missions

The US Space Agency Nasa and Nnsa (United States National Nuclear Security Administration) completed the first Krusty experiment (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology) test. The project has been launched in October 2015 for the development of a small nuclear reactor designed to supply energy to human colonies that could reach the Moon and Mars in the future.

The results of the experiment, conducted at the Nevada National Security Site between November and March 2018, were presented yesterday by NASA during a press conference at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, in the USA. The purpose of the successful test was to demonstrate how the system is able to produce electricity in conditions of stability and security, no matter where the reactor is placed. Capable of supplying up to 10 kilowatts of electricity for at least ten years, the nuclear fission power system would mark a turning point in aerospace exploration. According to the technicians, four KiloPower units would be able to provide enough energy for the construction of a stable human outpost and would be of fundamental importance in organizing very elaborate missions on the Moon and Mars, allowing for example to explore lunar craters in shadow and the whole lunar environment in general, where it is difficult to draw energy from sunlight.

From a technical point of view the prototype presented uses an uranium core 235. Transferred through pipes to high efficiency Stirling engines, heat is converted into electricity, essential for astronauts on a mission. During the verification phase it was possible to check the efficiency of the system. Subsequently the reactor was brought to the maximum power for the duration of 28 hours in the simulation of a real mission. The team then simulated power reductions, breakdowns and thermal pipe damage to test the product in critical conditions. Satisfied with the results, Nasa wants to move to the technology demonstration phase in 2020 in order to start building similar systems.

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