February 26, 2021
The Kilopower Project was initiated by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in fiscal year 2015 to demonstrate subsystem-level technology readiness of small space fission power in a relevant environment (Technology Readiness Level 5) for space science and human exploration power needs. The Kilopower Project centerpiece is the Kilowatt Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) test, which consists of the development and testing of a ground technology demonstrator of a 1 kWe-class fission power system. The technologies developed and validated by the KRUSTY test are extensible to space fission power systems from 1 to 10 kWe, which can enable modular surface fission power systems for human exploration, as well as higher power future potential deep space science missions. The KRUSTY demonstration was co-funded by NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
The KRUSTY test was completed on March 21st, 2018 at the National Critical Experiment Research Center inside the Device Assembly Facility (DAF). The nuclear-heated test was conducted over a 2-day period and included steady-state and transient operations of the reactor and Stirling engines, meeting all test objectives. Results show the system performed exceptionally-well and was very consistent with pre-test predictions. This is the first US space reactor power system test since the 1960s Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) Program, and hopefully the beginning of a new era in which nuclear reactors are utilized in a broad range of future NASA missions that couldn’t be accomplished any other way. This talk focuses on the design and development of the KRUSTY test.
Patrick McClure is a senior researcher and advisor on very small nuclear reactor projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Recently, he was the LANL lead for the development, construction and testing of a small space reactor for NASA called Kilopower.
David Poston is the leader of the Compact Fission Reactor Design Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This team is responsible for the design and development of nuclear fission reactors for civilian, NASA, and defense applications in space. Dr. Poston is the Chief Reactor Designer for the NASA Kilopower Project, including the DUFF and KRUSTY reactor tests.