Nuclear Systems (NS) – Kilopower


The Nuclear Systems project will test power conversion and thermal management technologies for in-space nuclear power and propulsion systems.

Fission Surface Power SystemThe success of future exploration missions will rely on the availability of safe, readily available, and abundant power. Nuclear-based technologies have the potential to satisfy this need given the fact that they are independent of available solar energy and their performance will not diminish by environmental factors such as dust accumulation on solar panels or weakening in available solar power for outer planetary missions.

In FY 2015, the Nuclear Systems project, led by GRC, will initiate the development of a low-cost, small fission terrestrial demonstration. The 3-year development effort will result in the demonstration of a fission power system using a prototype U235 reactor core coupled to flight-like Stirling converters. The small fission reactor and Stirling power converter technology enable both future more capable outer planetary science missions as well as surface power systems for human missions to Mars. In addition to this new development effort, the project will complete the non-nuclear, thermal vacuum testing of a medium power (40 to 100 kW) in-space fission power system, which will advance the component technologies to a TRL 5.

For more information about the Nuclear Systems Project, read the fact sheet “The Fission System Gateway to Abundant Power for Exploration.”

Principal Technologist Project Manager
Lee Mason ( Don Palac (

Researchers Test Novel Power System for Space Travel – Joint NASA and DOE team demonstrates simple, robust fission reactor prototype

CLEVELAND – A team of researchers from NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. have demonstrated a new concept for a reliable nuclear reactor that could be used on space flights. On September 13, the research team demonstrated the first use of a heat pipe to cool […]