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Kilopower Small Fission Technology (KP) Project

Project Introduction

Previous space reactor development programs (e.g. SP-100, Prometheus) have failed to complete the all-important system- level demonstration. The Nuclear Systems Project will demonstrate fission power subsystem technology readiness in a relevant environment for two classes of NASA's mission requirements: 10-100's kWe for exploration outposts and nuclear electric propulsion via the Technology Demonstration Unit (TDU), and 1-10 kWe for robotic science and small exploration systems (Kilopower).

Technologies Within this Project

Technology Details: Kilopower Small Fission Power Systems

This technology is categorized as a hardware system for unmanned spaceflight

Description of technology:

Nuclear power systems enable human and robotic exploration missions to solar system locations where other power system alternatives are infeasible, such as deep space or the dark and dusty surface of Mars.  Currently, Radioisotope Power Systems fueled by Plutionium-238 can be used for missions needing a few hundred watts, and NASA is demonstrating the technology that would be needed for tens to hundreds of kilowatts for human outposts on planetary surfaces (see the Nuclear Systems Project in Tec...

Capabilities provided:

  • 1 to 10 kWe of power for solar system human and robotic exploration of locations where alternative power systema are infeasible
  • Abundant power generation impervious to the environment

Potential applications:

  • Deep space science missions:
    • Flybys
    • Orbiters
    • Landers
    • Rovers/subsurface exploration
  • Human exploration missions:
    • Site survey landers
    • Mining vehicles
    • In-situ resource utilization demonstrations and plants
    • Communications relay stations
    • Remote science packages

Anticipated Benefits

Benefits to NASA funded missions

Reduces NASA dependence on Pu238 Enables SMD Decadal Survey Missions Provides Modular Option for HEOMD Mars Surface Missions.

U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

NASA Organizations Performing Work Role Location
  • Glenn Research Center (GRC)
Lead Center Cleveland, OH

U.S. States with Work:

 
U.S. States and Territories with Work on this Project
Alabama Pennsylvania
New Mexico Tennessee
Ohio
Other Organizations Performing Work Type of Organization
  • Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc.  (Lancaster, PA)
Commercial Company
  • Department of Energy 
Government Agency
  • Sunpower, Inc.  (Athens, OH)
Commercial Company

Organizational Responsibility

Responsible Mission Directorate:

Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)

Lead Center:

Glenn Research Center (GRC)

Responsible Program:

Game Changing Development Program

Project Management

Program Executive:

  • Lanetra Tate

Program Manager:

  • Mary Wusk

Project Manager:

  • Donald Palac

Principal Investigator:

  • Charles Taylor

Project Technology Areas

Primary:

  • Space Power and Energy Storage (TA 3)
    • Power Generation (TA 3.1)
    • Fission (TA 3.1.5)
    • 1-4 kWe Thermoelectric Fission Power System (TA 3.1.5.1)
    • 1-10 kWe Stirling Fission Power System (TA 3.1.5.2)

Secondary:

  • Space Power and Energy Storage (TA 3)
    • Power Generation (TA 3.1)
    • Fission (TA 3.1.5)
    • 1-4 kWe Thermoelectric Fission Power System (TA 3.1.5.1)

Project Duration

Start Date: Jul 2014

End Date: Sep 2018

Project Technology Maturity

  • Start
  • Current
  • Estimated End
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
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