UK could use plutonium in space nuclear power demonstration

On Earth, nuclear power is controversial – but for deep spacemissions it is a necessity. However, the plutonium driving spacecraftpower systems is invaluable not only for its ability to keepelectricity flowing where solar cells cannot; Pu-238 is also in shortsupply.

Nuclear power is critical to the 2018 ESA-NASA ExoMars Martian rovers mission and the UK’s Moonlite project.Moonlite is on hold for budgetary reasons, but would use a radioisotopeheater unit. More recently two ESA-NASA joint missions, Cassini-Huygens and Ulysses, used nuclear power. More flights are planned, such as the Europa Jupiter System Mission. Continue reading…

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