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NASA’s New Nuclear Reactor Could Power Missions Beyond Moon and Mars

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NASA has said that it successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.

NASA announced the results of the demonstration, called the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) experiment on Wednesday at its Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The Kilopower experiment was conducted at the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nevada National Security Site from November 2017 through March.

Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, NASA said in a statement.

“Safe, efficient and plentiful energy will be the key to future robotic and human exploration,” said Jim Reuter of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington.

“I expect the Kilopower project to be an essential part of lunar and Mars power architectures as they evolve,” Reuter said.

Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, NASA said in a statement.
Moon, Pixabay

Kilopower is a small, lightweight fission power system capable of providing up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power – enough to run several average households – continuously for at least 10 years.

Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost.

The pioneering power system is ideal for the Moon, where power generation from sunlight is difficult because lunar nights are equivalent to 14 days on Earth, said Marc Gibson, lead Kilopower engineer at Glenn.

“Kilopower gives us the ability to do much higher power missions, and to explore the shadowed craters of the Moon,” said Gibson.

“When we start sending astronauts for long stays on the Moon and to other planets, that’s going to require a new class of power that we’ve never needed before.”

The prototype power system uses a solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core, about the size of a paper towel roll.

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Passive sodium heat pipes transfer reactor heat to high-efficiency Stirling engines, which convert the heat to electricity.

The purpose of the recent experiment in Nevada was two-fold: to demonstrate that the system can create electricity with fission power, and to show the system is stable and safe no matter what environment it encounters, said David Poston of National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“We threw everything we could at this reactor, in terms of nominal and off-normal operating scenarios and KRUSTY passed with flying colours,” said Poston. (IANS)

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NASA: Parachutes Pass Drop Test, Will be Installed In Orion Spacecraft

The parachute system were "deployed as planned after being dropped from an altitude of 6.6 miles [10.6 kilometers) on July 12, at the US Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona", NASA said in a statement.

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NASA
Orion's full parachute system includes 11 parachutes three forward-bay cover parachutes, two drogue parachutes, three pilot parachutes, and three main parachutes. Pixabay

The parachutes for NASA’s next crew vehicle, the Orion capsule, intended to carry humans to deep space, has successfully passed a drop test, the US space agency said.

Orion’s full parachute system includes 11 parachutes three forward-bay cover parachutes, two drogue parachutes, three pilot parachutes, and three main parachutes.

These are designed to reduce the capsule’s speed during its descent back to Earth, supporting a safe landing in the ocean.

The parachute system were “deployed as planned after being dropped from an altitude of 6.6 miles [10.6 kilometers) on July 12, at the US Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona”, NASA said in a statement.

Data from, the seventh of eight total tests, “will help NASA engineers certify Orion’s parachutes for missions with astronauts” to moon and Mars.

The test evaluated parachute deployment under conditions that exceeded the requirements for a system carrying crew.

NASA
The test evaluated parachute deployment under conditions that exceeded the requirements for a system carrying crew. Pixabay

Engineers dropped the dart-shaped test article from an altitude that allowed it to generate enough speed to simulate almost twice as much force on the main chutes as would be expected under normal conditions.

Each of Orion’s three main parachutes expands to 116 feet in diameter and contains enough fabric to cover 80 yards of a football field, but is carried aboard Orion in containers the size of a large suitcase.

For storage, the parachutes are compacted with hydraulic presses at forces of up to 80,000 pounds, baked for two days and vacuumed sealed.

Once packed, they have a density of about 40 pounds per cubic foot, which is roughly the same as wood from an oak tree.

Also Read- Nasa Developing Technology to Protect from Space Radiation to reach Mars Safely

The last test in the series, scheduled for September, will use a capsule-shaped test article representative of the spacecraft NASA will use on Orion’s upcoming missions (IANS)

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