National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Los Alamos Lab Demonstrates A Reactor For Space Travel

Popular Science featured an article on the first new reactor prototype for space built in the U.S. since 1965.

Los Alamos Reactor

Los Alamos Reactor

“For spacecraft, you really can’t beat the efficiency and simplicity of a nuclear power supply. From the Pioneer probes to the Mars rover Curiosity, a nuclear battery allows a slow drip of electricity where solar power would be impractical or impossible, and fuel cells or other batteries would drain. But radioisotope thermoelectric generators, as these are called, give a spacecraft about a household light bulb’s worth of juice–and they need plutonium-238, an unstable and hard-to-obtain isotope.”