Scientists are developing a compact nuclear reactor for space colonies


2018-01-19 12:00:07




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Scientists are developing a compact nuclear reactor for space colonies

Modern science, dreams of space colonies. Sooner or later, Mars, the Moon and other planetary objects in our Solar system are inhabited by man. You can not doubt. Of course, to the realization of these plans are many obstacles and problems: cosmic radiation, the likelihood of health problems during long space missions, harsh environment, lack of water and oxygen. Anyway, scientists are confident that with all these difficulties they will be able to understand. Most relevant now is the question of where to take the energy to power the colony?

Energy is required not only in order to create suitable habitat for the colonists, but also in order that people possibly could return back to Earth. Take, for example, Mars. We can't just keep sending people to check, and behind them, to direct the space ship, only filled with fuel for the return flight home. This is considered a very silly idea and irrational waste of resources. Not only that, you will need to build a special space "tanker", filled with fuel, and will have to find a opportunity how the whole thing safely launch into space. It turns out that the colonists would need a source of energy with which they are able to generate oxygen and fuel for their spacecraft.

Where do we get efficient and compact source of energy for off-world colonies? This is from the Los Alamos national laboratory. More specifically, the Los Alamos national laboratory in cooperation with the aerospace Agency NASA currently, he is developing and hopes that one day such installation will be used to power Martian, lunar and other space colonies.

The Charm of a small nuclear reactor called Kilopower lies in its simplicity. It has only a few moving parts in its core, uses the technology of a heat pipe, which was invented at Los Alamos is still 1963, and has been used in one form of Stirling engine.

It Works as follows. Inside a closed conductor around the reactor the fluid is moving. Under the influence of heat of the reactor the liquid turns to steam, on the basis of which works the Stirling engine. Inside the engine there is a piston which begins to move inside of him created from the gas pressure. The piston is connected to a generator that produces electricity. Several of these devices working in tandem, can provide a highly reliable source of electricity that can be used for various purposes in various space missions and objectives, including the conquest of planetary bodies like moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Currently, a prototype of a compact reactor capable of producing 1 kWh – is enough to power some toaster – up to 10 kW⋅h For the effective operation of the home on Mars to make fuel would require approximately 40 kWh, it is likely that NASA sent to the planet several (4-5) of similar reactors. Fortunately they are compact.

The Advantage of nuclear energy over other sources is undeniable. First, it allows to solve the problem of weight and reliability. Other energy sources require a large amount of fuel (making them heavy) or dependent on climatic and seasonal conditions. For example, solar energy requires that reasonable, ongoing access to sunlight. In the conditions of Mars that luxury can be impermissible, as there is also the day gives way to night, sometimes for several months. In addition, an important role is played by a more careful selection of the place for founding a colony, as in some regions of the red planet there are strong dust storms, again, sometimes lasting several months. In the end, solar panels and batteries weigh a lot, therefore, would require a starting too heavy missiles, which, in turn, will require the use of very large amounts of fuel. Expensive. Very expensive. A nuclear reactor is the same no matter what time of day and under what weather conditions to work.

Experiments and testing of the reactor Kilopower began at the end of last year and tested at the nuclear test site in Nevada (USA). They completed testing under full thermal load in the spring of this year. This, of course, does not mean that after we can just go conquer other worlds, but the final test will show what the next vector of development should be chosen for the approximation to this day.

In Addition to NASA in the development project of reactor involved Research center Glenn Space center Marshall Center national security Y-12 and NASA contractors, companies SunPower and Advanced Cooling Technologies.



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