NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration under the Department of Energy have jointly conducted a demonstration of a new nuclear reactor system being developed for long-term space missions.
The Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology or KRUSTY is designed as a lightweight fission power system with the capacity to generate a maximum of 10 kilowatts for a decade straight, NASA said Wednesday.
Four Kilopower units are expected to be enough to power an outpost.
In the prototype, a uranium-235 reactor core generates heat that passive sodium heat pipes then transfer to Stirling engines for conversion to electricity.
“Kilopower gives us the ability to do much higher power missions, and to explore the shadowed craters of the Moon,” said Marc Gibson, lead Kilopower engineer at Glenn Research Center.
“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,” he added.
The experiment for KRUSTY took place at the Nevada National Security Site from November 2017 to March of this year.
NASA intends to transition the project to the Technology Demonstration Mission program in 2020.