China’s megawatt-level space nuclear reactor passes review

HELSINKI — A Chinese nuclear reactor intended to provide power and propulsion in space has passed a comprehensive performance evaluation, according to reports.

The reactor was designed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and can generate one megawatt of electricity for powering and propelling spacecraft.

The project successfully passed a comprehensive performance evaluation by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology on Aug. 25, according to Science and Technology Daily and other Chinese media.

Online reporting across multiple outlets has since been removed, but cached and archive versions are accessible.

No technical details or plans for using the nuclear power system were indicated in the reports.

Nuclear fission systems provide high levels of power and electric propulsion for robotic missions to the outer planets, which receive very low levels of energy from the sun, rendering solar power generation unnecessary. They can also provide power to planetary surfaces for crewed missions.

The project was launched in 2019 as a key national research and development program and demonstrates strong Chinese interest in developing nuclear power for use in space.

The South China Morning Post reported Last year that a prototype design had been completed and some components had been built.

Wu Weiren, China’s top space exploration official, director of the new Tiandu deep space exploration laboratory, in 2019 called for breakthroughs in the field of nuclear energy for space, in order to meet future mission requirements.

Chinese civilian mission proposals using a nuclear space reactor to provide power for propulsion include Voyager-type missions which would see a pair of spacecraft toward the nose and tail of the heliosphere and potentially a third perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic.

A Neptune Orbiter Mission concept using electric propulsion powered by a nuclear reactor was also released.

China has expanded its space transportation and deep space capabilities in recent years, successfully developing cryogenic rockets to facilitate lunar, Mars and space station projects. He is currently working on reusable launchers, super-heavy rockets and two-stage orbiting. reusable space plane system.

The United States is also moving forward with nuclear-powered spacecraft projects, with DARPANASA and the defense department all working on concepts.

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