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NASA / Emmett Given

NASA Tests Solar Sail for CubeSat that Will Study Near-Earth Asteroids (News Release)

NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite designed to study asteroids close to Earth, performed a successful deployment test June 28 of the solar sail that will launch on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The test was performed in an indoor clean room at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

NEA Scout is a six-unit CubeSat that relies on an innovative solar sail for propulsion. It is one of 13 secondary science payloads NASA selected to fly on EM-1. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, EM-1 will be the first integrated test of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, NASA’s Orion spacecraft and the newly upgraded Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In addition to testing these integrated systems, this first flight will also provide the rare opportunity for these small experiments to reach deep space destinations, conducting science missions and testing key technologies beyond low-Earth orbit.

“Developing a sail to harness the Sun’s energy to fly through space was once thought impossible,” said Joe Matus, NEA Scout project manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Just in this decade we’ve seen innovation and progress on this promising technology and NEA Scout is another step to using solar sails to explore our solar system. This team has worked really hard to make this technology a reality, and knowing that the sail we just tested will be the actual sail that propels NEA Scout through space is very exciting, and a testament to the knowledge and capabilities of our team.”

NEA Scout will deploy from the rocket after the Orion spacecraft is separated from the upper stage. When deployed, the sail, which is square in shape, with each side about the length of a school bus, will harness the light of the Sun to use as propulsion to move through space. Instead of wind, solar sails reflect sunlight for thrust, minimizing the need for fuel. This method reduces the size and weight of the spacecraft, thereby resulting in cost savings. The NEA Scout solar sail will deploy from the spacecraft using four arms -- called booms -- to hold the sail, much like a sail on a ship. After deployment, the satellite will travel to and fly-by an asteroid, taking photographic data that will help scientists better understand not only the asteroid itself, but the risks and challenges that future human exploration missions may encounter.

“Over the last couple of tests of our engineering test unit, we made improvements to the spacecraft’s sail deployment system,” said Tiffany Lockett, NEA Scout project system engineer at Marshall. “This test is the first and only time the sail will be deployed before it flies on EM-1, so we had to make sure the system will work correctly. We are analyzing the test data to make sure the deployment system worked as expected, before final assembly into the spacecraft and delivery for launch.”

Solar sails can’t run out of fuel as long as the Sun shines, allowing them to propel spacecraft farther and faster than some traditional propulsion technologies. Spacecraft like NEA Scout are the next step towards larger and more capable solar sails that can take our science instruments farther into the solar system, enabling new science and exploration missions.

NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems manages NEA Scout with the team led at Marshall with support from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. AES infuses new technologies developed by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate and partners with the Science Mission Directorate to address the unknowns and mitigate risks for crews and systems during future human exploration missions.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Flying as a secondary payload on Exploration Mission-1, @NASA's #NEAScout will study a near-Earth asteroid. Engineers recently tested the #CubeSat's solar sail that will propel it in space! LEARN MORE >> https://t.co/4eWZoKxLgD pic.twitter.com/LWT1vRuz6W

— NASA_SLS (@NASA_SLS) July 13, 2018
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SpaceX

Earlier this week, the Crew Dragon spacecraft that is slated to take flight on Demonstration Mission 1 by the end of this summer arrived at SpaceX's launch site in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida. This milestone occurred over a month after the Crew Dragon was transported to NASA's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio to undergo thermal testing inside a vacuum chamber. With Crew Dragon now at CCAFS, the only component that needs to arrive (unless it's already there) is the Block 5 Falcon 9 booster that will lift Dragon on its unmanned journey to the International Space Station. Along with Boeing prepping its CST-100 Starliner for its inaugural orbital mission later this year, SpaceX is close to giving America the ability to launch astronauts from U.S. soil once more.
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NASA / Tyler Martin

Foam and Cork Insulation Protects Deep Space Rocket from Fire and Ice (News Release)

Extreme temperatures -- ranging from minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit -- call for novel thermal protection systems on NASA's new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). NASA is advancing state-of-the-art technology for thermal protection with more environmentally friendly materials and 3D printed molds for smaller parts. With the power and precision needed for sending humans to deep space, SLS will launch astronauts in NASA's Orion spacecraft to distant destinations such as the Moon and Mars.

Spray-on foam insulation, along with other traditional insulation materials such as cork, will provide thermal protection for every rocket part, large and small. The insulation is flexible enough to move with the rocket but rigid enough to take the aerodynamic pressures as SLS accelerates from 0 to 17,400 miles per hour and soars to more than 100 miles above Earth in just 8 minutes. The cryogenic fuel, made up of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, that powers the rocket has to stay extremely cold to remain liquid. Hydrogen has to remain at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit and oxygen at minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures rise too high, the fuel would become a gas.

"As the Space Launch System flies, it builds up tremendous heat. Without insulation, heat from launch would affect the stability of the cryogenic propellants and the rocket’s structural integrity would be compromised," said Michael Alldredge, who leads the thermal protection system team for the SLS core stage at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “NASA is asking this unique foam material to do the incredible job of protecting critical rocket systems, which vary from large structures to electronics and fuel lines, in an unforgiving launch environment with extreme temperatures and pressures.”

Materials engineers qualified the third-generation, orange-colored spray-on foam insulation to meet the harsh environments that the SLS will experience. At the same time, they made the foam more environmentally friendly. The foam insulation is composed of two liquids -- isocyanate and a special polyol blend -- that stay separate in the pumping system and mix in the spray gun before releasing and rising into foam -- similar to hair mousse. When the foam is applied, it gives the rocket a light-yellow color that the Sun's ultraviolet rays eventually "tan," giving the SLS core stage its signature orange color.

Spray the Big Stuff

Foam will protect the larger of the hardware, including the entire SLS core stage that is the 212-foot-tall backbone of the rocket. The foam is applied with robotic or hand-held spray guns, and, much like painting walls in a home, hardware has to be primed and taped off before spraying begins. Primer serves as corrosion protection from the environment and enhances the bond between the insulation and the rocket.

Engineers will use a robotic system to apply both primer and foam to the cryotanks at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans where the core stage is being built. Manually-sprayed foam will cover the domes, or bottoms, of both cryotanks. The largest piece of SLS hardware built at Marshall, the launch vehicle stage adapter, which serves as a connector between the core stage and the interim cryogenic propulsion stage will have manually-sprayed foam.

The original plan was to use cork for the SLS launch vehicle stage adapter, according to Amy Buck, Marshall's launch vehicle stage adapter thermal protection systems lead, but the team determined that foam would be more efficient. "The foam is lighter," she said. "And since we have the resources to spray it by hand at Marshall, we are saving time and money because we don’t have to ship it to Michoud. We spray on the foam at Marshall at the same time the core stage pieces for the first SLS mission get their foam applied at Michoud."

"It takes about three months for the entire foam application process," Buck explained. “The prep work takes longer than the actual spraying. The hand-spraying only takes about 30 minutes for each 4-foot-wide section."

3-D Printed Molds Help Protect Smaller Stuff

Insulation protects many small parts of the rocket that play big roles. The avionics, the "brains" of the rocket, are located throughout the vehicle. Other small parts like the intertank's exterior pockets, the engine section's internal ducts and close-out areas of hardware -- where two major pieces connect -- require manually-sprayed foam or foam cast with 3-D printed molds.

“NASA is using a novel 3-D printing process to make customized molds for certain parts,” said Alldredge. “Some parts have unique geometries or are in locations in the rocket where it is difficult to cover them with spray foam. The 3-D printed molds allow us to shape insulation to protect specific parts.”

Small hardware like internal fuel systems and brackets on the feedline that run along the outside of the core stage and connect it to the engine section need pour foam. The foam is mixed and poured into a mold before it expands to fill the shape it enters.

Put Some Cork on It

Cork is heavier than foam but provides even stronger protection for certain applications. Cork comes in sheets and is applied to areas that have high predicted heat loads, like the core stage engine section, which houses four RS-25 engines that produce 2 million pounds of thrust. Cork is applied under the solid rocket boosters that provide 75 percent of thrust at liftoff and on the fairings, the areas where feedlines come out of the intertank and run down the rocket to connect the intertank to the other hardware.

After thermal protection material density and adhesion are verified for both foam and cork, engineers take thickness measurements to ensure the required amount of thermal protection has been applied. Overall thermal protection systems thickness for SLS ranges from about a half-inch to 2 inches. The launch vehicle stage adapter requires 0.7 inches of foam while the hydrogen tank requires around 1.2 inches because of its extremely cold temperature. The final system level test of the insulation, prior to flight, will be when the entire core stage will be tested with all four RS-25 engines firing, and the foam and cork guarding the hardware as hot and cold collide.

Source: NASA.Gov
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NASA / Robert Markowitz

NASA Names Six New Flight Directors to Lead Mission Control (Press Release)

NASA has selected six women and men to join the elite corps of flight directors who will lead mission control for a variety of new operations at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The new flight directors will begin extensive training on flight control and vehicle systems, as well as operational leadership and risk management, before they are ready to sit behind the flight director console in mission control supporting NASA’s astronauts. When they do, they will become part of a group that numbers fewer than 100. This class will bring the total number of flight directors the agency has had to 97 since Christopher C. Kraft became the first flight director in 1958.

“This is an outstanding group of future tactical leaders for the Flight Operations Directorate,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson. “We are excited to have them come on board.”

Joining the 26 active flight directors currently guiding mission control, this group will have the opportunity to oversee a variety of human spaceflight missions involving the International Space Station, including integrating American-made commercial crew spacecraft into the fleet of vehicles servicing the orbiting laboratory, as well as Orion spacecraft missions to the Moon and beyond.

“The job of flight director is not an easy one, and we make these selections very carefully,” said Holly Ridings, acting chief of the Flight Director Office at Johnson. “We had a great group of applicants, so we were able to choose six individuals who have worked in many areas of human spaceflight. They’ll bring a lot of good experience to the role that will serve NASA well as we undertake new and exciting missions.”

As flight directors, they will head teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts, and support personnel around the world and make the real-time decisions critical to keeping NASA astronauts safe in space.

The new flight directors are:

Allison Bolinger (AL-luh-son BOWL-ing-er)

Bolinger, from Lancaster, Ohio, began her career at NASA as an intern in 2001, before earning her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University in 2004. Upon becoming a full-time NASA employee after graduation, she supported spacewalks in a variety of functions, including as a lead spacewalk flight controller for space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission, and several spacewalks since. Most recently, she has served as the deputy chief of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, managing the facility’s daily operations.

Adi Boulos (ADD-ee BOO-luss)

Boulos grew up in Palos Hills, Illinois, and Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He began his career at NASA in 2008 and was one of the first flight controllers managing the space station’s core system computer networks in a position, known as Communications RF Onboard Networks Utilization Specialist (CRONUS). In addition to serving as a CRONUS specialist flight controller and as a CRONUS instructor, Boulos also worked with the Orion Program on spacecraft system recovery processes after major malfunctions.

Jose Marcos Flores (MAR-cos FLOOR-es)

Flores, who considers Caguas, Puerto Rico, to be his hometown, interned at multiple NASA centers while working on his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez. He came to Johnson Space Center full time in 2010 as a systems engineer, helping to develop a new space station simulator. He went on to become a flight controller managing the station’s power and external thermal control in a position known as Station Power, ARticulation, Thermal, and Analysis (SPARTAN). He also earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University.

Pooja Joshi Jesrani (POO-juh jess-RAH-knee)

Jesrani was born in England but immigrated to Houston during childhood. Jesrani began interning with United Space Alliance (USA) before graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2007. In her work with USA and later NASA, she has supported the space station flight control team in many positions, including managing the life support and motion control systems, and then as a capsule communicator (CAPCOM), speaking directly with the astronauts in space. Recently, Jesrani has been working to integrate mission operations for upcoming commercial crew flights.

Paul Konyha III (PAWL CON-ya)

Konyha, was born in Manhasset, New York, and finished high school in Mandeville, Louisiana. He served in the United States Air Force from 1996 until 2016, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel after holding a number of operations, engineering and leadership positions for numerous space systems. Since then, he has led the design, test, operations and disposal of all Department of Defense (DOD) payloads on crewed spacecraft for the DOD’s Space Test Program office at Johnson Space Center. Konyha holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana Tech University and master’s degrees in military operational art and science, and science and astronautical engineering from Air University and the University of Southern California, respectively.

Rebecca J. Wingfield (re-BECK-uh WING-field)

Wingfield, from Princeton, Kentucky, interned at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 2007. She joined the flight control team at Johnson Space Center in 2007 as a contractor with United Space Alliance, overseeing maintenance tasks that the astronauts perform in space. She went on to become a CAPCOM, speaking to the crew on behalf of the control team, and a chief training officer, preparing space station crews for their missions. She also holds a master’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Houston – Clear Lake.
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Richard Branson Welcomes VSS Unity Home from Second Supersonic Flight (News Release)

Richard Branson joined Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company teams this morning, on the Mojave Air and Space Port flight line, to witness VSS Unity’s second successful, supersonic, rocket powered test flight.

“It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space” Branson said. “Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking. We are getting ever closer to realizing our goals. Congratulations to the whole team!”

The focus of today’s flight was to expand our understanding of the spaceship’s supersonic handling characteristics and control system’s performance with vehicle parameters that were closer to the ultimate commercial configuration. This involved shifting the vehicle’s center of gravity rearward via the addition of passenger seats and related equipment. The rocket motor burned for the planned 31 seconds and propelled Unity to a speed of Mach 1.9 and an altitude of 114,500 ft. As will be the case for future commercial flights, Unity’s unique re-entry feathering system was deployed for the initial descent before the final glide home to a smooth runway landing.

Once in commercial service, Virgin Galactic’s spaceships are designed to be turned around and flown at a higher frequency than has traditionally been the case for human spaceflight. The flight today brought that vision a little closer, coming less than two months after Unity’s first rocket powered flight. Great credit goes to the engineering and maintenance teams for working through the first flight’s data diligently and efficiently before preparing Unity again for flight.

Richard Branson was on the runway tarmac to greet this flight’s VSS Unity pilots Dave Mackay and Mark “Forger” Stucky. In addition to the pilots of VSS Unity, Branson recognized CJ Sturckow and Nicola Pecile, the pilots of the carrier aircraft, VMS Eve.

“Today we saw VSS Unity in her natural environment, flying fast under rocket power and with a nose pointing firmly towards the black sky of space” he said. “The pathway that Unity is forging is one that many thousands of us will take over time, and will help share a perspective that is crucial to solving some of humanity’s toughest challenges on planet Earth.”

The teams will now conduct flight data review for this flight and continue planning preparations for the next flight.

While in Mojave, Richard Branson also toured the facilities of The Spaceship Company (TSC), Virgin’s Galactic sister company. TSC is focused on manufacturing next generation aerospace vehicles, with a primary focus on new spaceships for Virgin Galactic’s future fleet. Branson viewed the next two spaceships on the TSC’s manufacturing line, as well as the production facilities for TSC’s spaceship rocket motors.

Source: Virgin Galactic

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Virgin Galactic


Virgin Galactic


Virgin Galactic


Virgin Galactic


Virgin Galactic


Richard Branson Welcomes VSS Unity Home from Second Supersonic Flight - YouTube
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NASA / Nick Moss

Crawler-Transporter-2 Checked Out During Test Drive to Launch Pad 39B (News Release)

Crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2) arrives on the surface of Launch Pad 39B for a fit check on May 22, 2018, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The test drive to the pad confirms that all of the recent modifications to CT-2 and Pad 39B are operational to support the launch of the agency's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft on Exploration Mission-1.

In view, at right, is one of three lightning protection towers positioned around Pad 39B. Exploration Ground Systems managed the modifications and upgrades to CT-2 and Pad 39B to prepare for EM-1 and deep space exploration missions.

Source: NASA.Gov
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NASA / Charles Conrad

NASA Administrator Reflects on Legacy Record-Breaking Skylab, Apollo Astronaut (Press Release)

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on the passing of Apollo and Skylab astronaut Alan Bean:

“Alan Bean once said ‘I have the nicest life in the world.’ It’s a comforting sentiment to recall as we mourn his passing.

“As all great explorers are, Alan was a boundary pusher. Rather than accepting the limits of technology, science, and even imagination, he sought to advance those lines -- in all his life’s endeavors. Commissioned in the U.S. Navy in 1955, he chose the challenging pursuit of flight training and, after four years as a Naval pilot, decided to challenge himself further by attended the Navy Test Pilot School and becoming a test pilot.

“He joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1963 and, just six years later, was piloting the lunar module for the Apollo 12 mission. During that mission, he walked on the Moon. Yet he pushed farther. In 1973, Alan commanded the Skylab Mission II and broke a world record with a 59-day flight traversing 24.4 million miles. In all, he had a hand in breaking 11 world records in the areas of space and astronautics.

“After logging 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space, Alan passed the baton to the next generation of astronauts and changed fronts, looking to push the boundaries of his own imagination and ability as an artist. Even in this endeavor, his passion for space exploration dominated, as depicted most powerfully is his work ‘Hello Universe.’ We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe.”


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NASA
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NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

NASA Sends New Research on Orbital ATK Mission to Space Station (Press Release)

Astronauts soon will have new experiments to conduct related to emergency navigation, DNA sequencing and ultra-cold atom research when the research arrives at the International Space Station following the 4:44 a.m. EDT Monday launch of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft.

Cygnus lifted off on an Antares 230 rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Orbital ATK’s ninth cargo mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. The spacecraft is carrying about 7,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of the more than 250 investigations underway on the space station.

NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Cygnus when it arrives at the station Thursday, May 24. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 3:45 a.m. Installation coverage is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

Included in the cargo in the pressurized area of Cygnus is a centuries-old method of celestial navigation. The Sextant Navigation investigation will explore the use of a hand-held sextant for emergency navigation on missions in deep space as humans look to travel farther from Earth. The ability to sight angles between the Moon or planets and stars offers crews another option to find their way home if communications and main computers are compromised.

Monitoring crew health and the biological environment of the space station, and understanding long-term effects of space travel on both, are critical to NASA’s plans for long-duration, deep space exploration. The Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) study is the agency’s next step toward advancing in-space DNA sequencing technologies that can identify microbial organisms living on the space station and understanding how the DNA of humans, plants and microbes are affected by microgravity. BEST will use a process that sequences DNA directly from a sample, with minimal preparation, rather than using the traditional technique of growing a culture from the sample.

In the realm of modern physics, the new Cold Atom Lab (CAL) on Cygnus could help answer some big questions. CAL creates a temperature 10 billion times colder than the vacuum of space, then uses lasers and magnetic forces to slow down atoms until they are almost motionless. In the microgravity environment of the space station, CAL can observe these ultra-cold atoms for much longer than possible on Earth. Results of this research could lead to a number of improved technologies, including sensors, quantum computers and atomic clocks used in spacecraft navigation.

Cygnus is scheduled to depart the station in July with several tons of trash and burn up during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, over the Pacific Ocean. The vehicle is named after James “J.R.” Thompson, a leader in the aerospace industry.

For more than 17 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,400 research investigations from researchers in 103 countries.

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NASA ScienceCasts: Cool Science on the International Space Station - YouTube
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About two hours ago, Elon Musk tweeted this image of the first spaceflight-worthy Crew Dragon capsule as it underwent Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) testing inside an echo-free chamber at SpaceX. After completing the EMI test, Crew Dragon will be shipped to NASA's Plum Brook Station near Sandusky, Ohio to be tested under spaceflight conditions inside its vacuum chamber. Crew Dragon won't be the only human-rated spacecraft to be analyzed at Plum Brook over the next year or so; NASA's Orion capsule for Exploration Mission-1 will be sent to this facility to also undergo similar tests once it is attached to its European Service Module—which is scheduled to be shipped to the United States from Airbus Defence and Space in Germany sometime this Summer.

The first unmanned orbital flight of Crew Dragon is currently set to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than this August...aboard SpaceX's newest Block 5 version of its Falcon 9 rocket. Can't wait!


Elon Musk
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NASA

Demonstration Proves Nuclear Fission System Can Provide Space Exploration Power (Press Release)

NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable long-duration crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.

NASA announced the results of the demonstration, called the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) experiment,during a news conference Wednesday at its Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The Kilopower experiment was conducted at the NNSA’s Nevada National Security Site from November 2017 through March.

“Safe, efficient and plentiful energy will be the key to future robotic and human exploration,” said Jim Reuter, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington. “I expect the Kilopower project to be an essential part of lunar and Mars power architectures as they evolve.”

Kilopower is a small, lightweight fission power system capable of providing up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power - enough to run several average households - continuously for at least 10 years. Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost.

According to Marc Gibson, lead Kilopower engineer at Glenn, the pioneering power system is ideal for the Moon, where power generation from sunlight is difficult because lunar nights are equivalent to 14 days on Earth.

“Kilopower gives us the ability to do much higher power missions, and to explore the shadowed craters of the Moon,” said Gibson. “When we start sending astronauts for long stays on the Moon and to other planets, that’s going to require a new class of power that we’ve never needed before.”

The prototype power system uses a solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core, about the size of a paper towel roll. Passive sodium heat pipes transfer reactor heat to high-efficiency Stirling engines, which convert the heat to electricity.

According to David Poston, the chief reactor designer at NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the purpose of the recent experiment in Nevada was two-fold: to demonstrate that the system can create electricity with fission power, and to show the system is stable and safe no matter what environment it encounters.

“We threw everything we could at this reactor, in terms of nominal and off-normal operating scenarios and KRUSTY passed with flying colors,” said Poston.

The Kilopower team conducted the experiment in four phases. The first two phases, conducted without power, confirmed that each component of the system behaved as expected. During the third phase, the team increased power to heat the core incrementally before moving on to the final phase. The experiment culminated with a 28-hour, full-power test that simulated a mission, including reactor startup, ramp to full power, steady operation and shutdown.

Throughout the experiment, the team simulated power reduction, failed engines and failed heat pipes, showing that the system could continue to operate and successfully handle multiple failures.

“We put the system through its paces,” said Gibson. “We understand the reactor very well, and this test proved that the system works the way we designed it to work. No matter what environment we expose it to, the reactor performs very well.”

The Kilopower project is developing mission concepts and performing additional risk reduction activities to prepare for a possible future flight demonstration. The project will remain a part of the STMD’s Game Changing Development program with the goal of transitioning to the Technology Demonstration Mission program in Fiscal Year 2020.

Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, including missions that rely on In-situ Resource Utilization to produce local propellants and other materials.

The Kilopower project is led by Glenn, in partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama,and NNSA, including its Los Alamos National Laboratory, Nevada National Security Site and Y-12 National Security Complex.

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Los Alamos National Laboratory
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