Well, we haven’t had one of these in a while. NASA is going to be making an announcement on Wednesday, May 2 about a pretty awesome new technology – and you can watch it live.
At 9.15am EDT (2.15pm BST) at their Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, they’re going to be revealing details about a new nuclear reactor power system for space called Kilopower.
Specifically, they have finished testing the new system as part of a $15m project, IFLScience understands, and will be sharing the results. We don’t yet know what the results of the test have been.
Audio and slides from the event are going to be streamed live on NASA’s website right here. You can also get involved during the event by tweeting questions to #AskNASA.
“Kilopower could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and destinations beyond,” NASA said. “The experiment was conducted November 2017 through March 2018 at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).”
Kilopower is a new nuclear fission power source that’s been billed as a way to enable human exploration of other worlds. Its key innovation is that it uses heat generated by the nuclear fission of uranium to power a Sterling engine.
For the last few months, the team has been testing a prototype called KRUSTY (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology). They have been running it at temperatures of up to 800°C (1,470°F), producing enough heat to generate a kilowatt of power – hence, Kilopower.
These tests were designed to check out the prototype, and see if it might be useful. This is the first time NASA has tested a fission reactor intended for use in space since the 1960s. And if successful, it could open up quite a few doors.
One of these reactors, for example, could be used to send probes on deep space missions to the outer planets and even beyond. Several of them in tandem could also be used to power a future Mars colony.
So what will we find out tomorrow? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But based on the fact there’s a whole news conference planned, we’d guess it’s probably good news. Fingers crossed.