A latest kind of nuclear reactor which has been developed in a way as to provide power to crewed outposts on moon as well as Mars might be ready for running the first ever in-space test. Team members of the project said in next three years the mission might take place. Flight test might be the upcoming step for testing the Kilopower fission reactor. It has already performed well in a number of difficult ground tests from the time period of November 2017 to March 2018. There is no mention of off-Earth demo on books till now. However, project leader of Kilopower in Department of Energy Los Alamos National Laboratory from New Mexico, Patrick McClure said that Kilopower must be set to leave by 2022.
McClure mentioned during July 2019 on a presentation with Future In-Space Operations of NASA that he is confident that they could be ready in next three years and be set for the flight. He also said that three years is ample time for all the work and strictly emphasized that this is absolutely his opinion and not NASA’s. NASA is involved in building the Kilopower project with DOE.
Nuclear energy is one of the optimum sources of power for spacecrafts. Voyager 1 and 2 probes, Curiosity Mars rover, New Horizons spacecraft and several other robotic explorers of NASA make use of radioisotope thermoelectric generators that has the capability of transforming heat emitting from radioactive decay of plutonim-238 directly into electricity. A crewed Mars outpost would want more energy than what is demanded by Curiosity or Mars 2020 rover. It would need constant 40 kilowatts electrical power. In fact, electricity would be needed for purifying the water, make oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars that is filled in carbon dioxide, get the staying places heated up and charging up rovers etc.