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Image credit: Glenn Research Center

On Jan. 17, NASA announced the beginning of reactor core tests on a miniaturized fission reactor.

“We want a power source that can handle extreme environments,” said Lee Mason, NASA’s principal technologist for power and energy storage, in a press release. “Kilopower opens up the full surface of Mars, including the northern latitudes where water may reside. On the Moon, Kilopower could be deployed to help search for resources in permanently shadowed craters.”

The reactor core was provided by the Y12 National Security Complex, with the power system around it designed and developed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in collaboration with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It is estimated to be able to produce up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power for at least 10 years. Four of them could run the kind of crewed Mars outpost NASA wants to one day establish.

Testing is expected to continue through Spring 2018 at the National Critical Experiments Research Center located in the Device Assembly Facility, Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).

Editor's Note: This story incorrectly stated that tests were performed on a fusion reactor. The system includes a fission reactor.

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