NASA will be holding a press conference in May to announce the results of its latest “Kilopower” experiments, as the space agency moves forward on its plans to set up an inexpensive nuclear power system in space.
As part of the project, NASA is working on plans to devise new forms of technology that could be instrumental in developing an “affordable” fission nuclear power system to support certain long-term missions. The agency’s Kilopower page also explains the project’s objectives, which include developing and testing these systems within the current year, thereby allowing fission to be used as an alternative source of power for spacecraft exploring planetary surfaces.
“Kilopower could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions to the moon, Mars and destinations beyond,” wrote NASA in this week’s news release announcing the press conference.
The Kilopower experiments were carried out between November, 2017, and March, 2018, at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), though the news release did not go into specifics regarding the nature of the experiments, or the findings that will be announced. According to The Independent, the NNSS has been around for several decades as a venue for nuclear experiments, including a series of nuclear bomb detonations in the 1950s.
In a separate article published in January, NASA explained how the fission power system is expected to work once set up, noting that it could offer a maximum of 10 kilowatts of electric power, or about the same amount of energy required to power two average households for at least a decade. The article also touched on the ability of fission to provide “abundant energy” in space, regardless of whether the energy is required for a crewed or a robotic mission.
Talking about the advantages Kilopower has over other solutions, NASA wrote that it could be hard to rely on the sun for energy during space missions. With this challenge, as well as traditionally limited supplies of fuel in mind, NASA believes that Kilopower could be an optimal solution due to its reliability, efficiency, and convenience.
The press conference detailing the results of the latest Kilopower experiments will be held on Wednesday, May 2, at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The space agency will also be streaming the presentation on its official website.