Project tests nuclear reactor that’s made for space

Kilopower test
Kilopower lead engineer Marc Gibson and Vantage Partner’s Jim Sanzi install hardware on the Kilopower assembly at the Nevada National Security Site during testing in March. (NNSS Photo)

That’s one small step for nuclear reactors on the moon and Mars, and several giant leaps to go.

Eventually, the technology pioneered by NASA’s Kilopower project could provide the electricity required to keep the lights on at off-Earth outposts, and to turn space resources into the breathable air, water and rocket fuel required for those outposts.

“When we go to the moon, and eventually on to Mars, we are likely going to need large power sources and not rely on the sun,” Jim Reuter, NASA’s acting associate administrator for space technology, explained today during a news briefing at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The first step is to confirm that the technology works, reliably and safely. And officials from NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, say they did that during a series of tests conducted between last November and March at NNSA’s Nevada National Security Site.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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