NASA engineers are developing a compact nuclear reactor to support interplanetary expeditions. According to the developers, by 2022 it can be delivered to the surface of the moon, and then Mars, to solve the problem of power supply of space missions.
The Kilopower Autonomous power plant has already passed a number of tests on the Ground. Now engineers are making adjustments to the design of the installation to work on the red planet and the earth's satellite.
"Three years is a feasible period of time. I think we have enough time," said project Manager Patrick McClure.
As an energy source, radioactive plutonium-238 is used, the decay of which is accompanied by the release of thermal energy, which is then converted into electricity. As the name implies, the reactor is able to generate at least 1 kW of energy stably.
Kilopower uses Stirling engines, the mechanics of which work by increasing the temperature in the main cylinder. The actual value of the reactor efficiency is about 30%, which is several times higher than the radioisotope thermoelectric generators currently used in space, the efficiency of which is only 7%.
In the future, the power of the reactor can be increased to 10 kW, in this mode, it will be able to work for about 15 years. The only problem is the weight of the device, which reaches 2 tons. Scientists suggest partially solving the dilemma by "burying" the power unit in the Martian soil before turning it on — this will reduce the weight of the screens by 500 kilograms.
Date sent Kilopower on the moon and Mars yet to be announced.