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NASA Tests Mini-Nuclear Reactors for Moon and Mars

NASA's portable nuclear reactor could power missions to Mars

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The concept received funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.
The concept received funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.. Pixabay
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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.

Representational image
Representational image. 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.

Also Read: NASA Probe Unveils Stormy Environment of Jupiter’s Moon

“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.

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 Launches “Remote Sensing Toolkit To Help Users Search For Data

The "Remote Sensing Toolkit" provides a simple system that quickly identifies relevant sources based on user input, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

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"Our mission to bring NASA technology down to Earth is expanding with the release of this remote sensing toolkit," Lockney said. Pixabay

NASA has launched an online toolkit to make it easier for users to find, analyse and utilise the most relevant satellite data for their research, business projects or conservation efforts.

The “Remote Sensing Toolkit” provides a simple system that quickly identifies relevant sources based on user input, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

The toolkit is designed to help users search for data, as well as ready-to-use tools and code to build new tools.

“This new tool makes finding and using NASA satellite data easier than ever before, and we hope it sparks innovation among the entrepreneurial community and leads to further commercialisation of NASA technology and benefits people across the world,” said Daniel Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer programme executive.

“Our mission to bring NASA technology down to Earth is expanding with the release of this remote sensing toolkit,” Lockney said.

Through its constellation of Earth observation satellites, NASA collects petabytes of data each year.

NASA
Through its constellation of Earth observation satellites, NASA collects petabytes of data each year. Pixabay

The variety of open source tools created to access, analyse and utilise the data from these satellites is familiar to millions of science users, but accessing and utilising this data remains daunting for many potential commercial users.

For example, NASA’s remote-sensing data and tools are spread out across dozens of sites.

The NASA Technology Transfer programme reviewed more than 50 websites and found that no source provided a comprehensive collection of information or a single access point to begin a search.

This prompted the US space agency to introduce the Remote Sensing Toolkit.

Also Read-NASA Funding Project RAMA To Turn Asteroids Into Spaceships

“Remote Sensing Toolkit will help grow the number of users who put NASA’s free and open data archive to work for people,” said Kevin Murphy of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. (IANS)

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