General, Research, Technology

How a nuclear reactor will help NASA create colonies on other planets

Over the past few years space interestagencies like NASA to create human colonies on other planets (and on the moon) have grown tremendously. Not the least role in this was played by, among other things, Elon Musk, who does not abandon attempts to send someone to Mars (if technology allowed, I think he would have gone there himself). But if we discard the transportation of astronauts, the main problem is to ensure the autonomy of the colonies and the cheapening of construction. Not to mention cosmic radiation, the likelihood of health problems during long space missions, harsh environments, lack of water and oxygen. And if these problems have not yet been resolved, NASA can provide the colonies with energy now.

Where to get energy on Mars? NASA has an answer

The smallest nuclear reactor

The Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA, which works closely with NASA, has one such energy source that can be used for extraterrestrial colonies. it small nuclear reactor entitled Kilopower. It has only a few moving parts and inIt basically uses heat transfer technology that was invented in Los Alamos back in 1963 and was used in one of the varieties of the Stirling engine.

Stirling's engine consists of two cameras. The fluid heated by the heat source expands, moving the first piston connected to the second with a wheel or lever. As long as there is a heat source, the engine continues to run.

Stirling engine needs a constant heat source

NASA Compact Nuclear Reactor Worksslightly different, but it is also based on heat and liquid. Engineers modified the installation so that it not only generated current, but also controlled the decay of uranium-235 to release additional energy and heat. The fluid moves inside a closed heat conduit around the reactor. Under the influence of the heat of a nuclear reactor, the liquid turns into steam, on the basis of which the Stirling engine works. From the steam the piston begins to move. The piston is connected to a generator that produces electricity. IN NASA consider several similar devicesworking in tandem can be a very reliable source of electricity, which can be used for a variety of purposes within the framework of various space missions and tasks, including the conquest of planetary bodies like the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn.

It looks like the most compact nuclear reactor

Such a reactor can produce from 1 kWh (enough to heat water in an electric kettle) to 10 kWh.

For effective work colonies on Mars and creating fuel will require approximately 40 kWh. It is likely that NASA will send several (4-5) such reactors to the planet at once.

Scientists have been developing Kilopower for 8years, and as long as they have a working prototype, it will be ready for release only by 2022. They want this nuclear reactor to literally be carried around, delivered to another planet using existing launch vehicles, as well as using the new superheavy SLS platform.

SLS (Space Launch System) - An extra-heavy launch vehicle that NASA is planning to use to deliver people to the moon and Mars. So far, it is under development.

Why is NASA a nuclear reactor?

Why is this needed? For example, take a trip to Mars. You can’t just send people there for check-in on a spaceship, and after them send another ship with fuel so that they go home. This is an extremely stupid idea, since each such flight will cost billions of dollars. Moreover, for this it will be necessary to build a special space "tanker" filled with fuel and SAFETY send it into space. Given that many missiles explode shortly after take-off, can you imagine what kind of fireworks a rocket will arrange, which is all filled with fuel?

Therefore cosmic human coloniesthey need a source of energy with which they can produce both oxygen and fuel for their spacecraft. The role of such a source should be the Kilopower nuclear reactor.

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Why you can’t send a nuclear reactor theremore? Due to the complete lack of air on the Moon, Mars or other planets, the task of cooling a nuclear reactor will become significantly more complicated. At Kilopower, nuclear fuel is cooled by water, and a steam engine converts heat and pressure energy into motion and electricity.

Did you know that 10 nuclear reactors of the "Chernobyl type" are still operating in Russia?

And no, this is not the same nuclear reactor "Iron Man". In that case, it is based on a completely differenttechnology - thermonuclear fusion. Lighter atoms collide together and turn into heavier ones, releasing a huge amount of energy along the way. So far, the creation of such a reactor is only a utopia, although China and Great Britain have long dreamed of such technologies.

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