Kilopower Nuclear Microreactor May Become Power Source for Martian Colonies

NASA, the US Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory have worked together to create the cornerstone of all future space missions. It is a compact nuclear power reactor Kilopower, a versatile autonomous power source.

Kilopower prototypes range in size from a can of coffee to a bucket and power from 1 to 10 kW. They run on uranium, one filling is enough for 10 years of operation. Their design does not require a complex cooling system or control rods. The reactor works stably until it runs out of fuel, does not get too much fluorescent, and the risk of its explosion is minimized.

Kilopower is useless, expensive and unprofitable for Earth conditions, where the average household consumes about 5-10 kW per day. But in space, everything is different, every watt of energy is rationally used there, and systems that do not need refueling are highly valued. According to NASA calculations, only five microreactors will be enough for the first settlement on Mars - 50 kW is enough to hold out until the next ship with supplies arrives.

Kilopower has only two drawbacks, but theoretically they can put an end to the whole project. Firstly, the prototype has not yet been fully tested, and the reliability of the systems, especially in extreme space conditions, is still in question. Secondly, the costs of its creation are such that NASA admits: without sponsors, private investments, the Kilopower project will not be implemented soon.