Friday, January 26, 2018

NASA pushes for nuclear-powered space missions

Kilopower prototype, NASA image.

In the past, NASA has used radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) to power spacecraft like Voyagers 1 and 2, the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Packages, and the Curiosity rover. However, it is not terribly efficient.

Nuclear reactors can take advantage of active nuclear fission, or atom splitting, to be far more efficient, and NASA has been researching this technology for decades.

The United States flew its first space reactor, SNAP-10A, in 1965. However, from the late 1970s through the early 2000s, space reactor development has been largely unsuccessful. "There hasn't been any tangible progress in fission reactor technology in decades," Dave Poston, chief reactor designer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said during the conference. (Full Story)

NASA unveils new power source for space exploration

Kilopower deep space system, NASA illustration.

NASA's Glenn Research Center developed the kilowatt prototype in collaboration with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Engineers deemed the project feasible in 2012 and have since been moving toward a full-scale demonstration. The uranium reactor core was supplied by the Y12 National Security Complex, and the entire prototype assembly was shipped to the Nevada National Security Site for early testing late last year. This will culminate with a 28-hour, full-power test in late March.

Kilopower would open up areas of the inner solar system to long-term exploration as well. On the Moon, for example, night is two weeks long. And on Mars, sandstorms periodically cover the solar panels used by rovers such as Spirit and Opportunity. For this reason, Curiosity uses a plutonium-powered MMRTG, as will the Mars 2020 rover. (Full Story)

Extensive National and International coverage includes:
Fortune, Reuters, Popular Mechanics, Discover, and many more!

Floating ultralight craft could deliver worldwide Internet

Miles Beaux works in a glovebox, where he is researching lighter-than-air solids, LANL photo.

More than half the people on Earth cannot access the Internet. According to a Facebook study, bringing internet to all could raise the world’s gross domestic product by $2.2 trillion, increase the GDP growth rate by 72 percent, and create more than 140 million new jobs worldwide.

A solution just might come from a new technology being developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Researchers at the lab are closer than ever to creating an “air-buoyant solid” – a material that floats without helium gas, hot air, or some other buoyant filler – and with it the hope of building lighter-than-air craft that could deliver internet access to currently unserved, remote parts of the world. (Full Story)

Neutron anomaly might point to dark matter

UCNA experiment at Los Alamos National Laboratory, from Physics World.

To measure the average neutron lifetime precisely, physicists employ two basic techniques. One is to house neutrons within a container, known as a bottle, and simply count how many of them remain after a fixed interval of time. The other approach is to fire a neutron beam with a known intensity through an electromagnetic trap and measure how many protons emerge in a given time.

two collaborations at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico – UCNA and UCNtau – are currently searching for the photon (gamma-ray) and electron–positron signals within data from neutron decays. “Data are in hand and analyses are under way," says UCNA team member Peter Geltenbort of the Institut Laue-Langevin in France. (Full Story)

Los Alamos has Viome!

Viome’s senior management team at their headquarters, Daily Post photo.

Viome, which stands for “Science of Life” (Vie in French means Life and Omics means Science), is a startup created with the help of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Housed in a 21,000 square-foot facility at 81 Camino Entrada, the biotech/artificial intelligence company analyzes your microbiome and metabolism to generate personalized dietary and nutritional recommendations.

Viome was founded with one simple premise: What if illness could be elective?

“We have come to realize that most of the genes in our body are microbial, not human,” said Viome’s Chief Science Officer Momo Vuyisich during an interview in his laboratory. (Full Story)

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