The NASA in coalition with the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has recently worked upon the initial demonstration tests of the NASA’s next-generation space reactor. The space reactor is known as the Kilopower Reactor using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) nuclear reactor.
The zest for exploring the region beyond reach has excited the nerves of the geniuses at NASA to come up with the Kilopower system. The Kilopower system is a 10-kilowatt space reactor. It can run and carry on its mission for almost ten years before refueling. It makes the use of solid-cast uranium 235 reactor core. The primary function of this solid-cast uranium 235 reactor core is to rule out the plutonium deficiency. The reactor core is six inches in diameter and is surrounded by a beryllium oxide reflector.
At one end, the boron carbide single rod is removed and inserted which starts the reactor. After the reactor stops, the beryllium oxide reflector catches the escaping neutrons and drives them back to the reactor core. The entire mechanism thus makes the self-regulating fission reaction to function with swift efficiency. The solid-cast uranium 235 reactor core remains mildly radioactive unless it is activated.
The Kilopower is modular. The modular design of the Kilopower helps to hook the self-contained reactor units and their respective Stirling reactors. It generates more power as and when needed.
The experiment for the initial demonstration of the NASA’s next-generation space center was performed at the Nevada National Security Site. It was conducted in November 2017 and continued until March 2018. The chief reactor designer is David Poston. Poston conveyed that the experimental demonstration was performed to check how the reactor works and whether it will work under abnormal circumstances.
Two tests were conducted with the reactor without generating the power. It was to detect the condition of the components. The final analysis extended for about twenty-eight hours and was a full-powered mission simulation. It included space reactor startup, full power ramp, steady operation and the final shutdown.
The lead Kilopower engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Marc Gibson says, “We put the system through its paces.” He further added, “We understand the reactor very well, and this test proved that the system works the way we designed it to work. No matter what environment we expose it to, the reactor performs very well.”