It goes without saying that China has a long-standing history of being a technology giant, and it is now going to make another debut in conducting space missions. It was revealed by the South China Morning Post last November that China was on a mission to construct a powerful nuclear reactor for its missions related to the Moon and Mars. Recently, the news has been validated by the two engineers who were part of the project that the manufacturing has finally been completed after passing through certain stages of performance evaluation.
The details coming out by SpaceNews are a little exciting as it has been reported that the reactor is capable of generating one megawatt of electricity. This shows that the reactor is 100 times more powerful as compared to the one developed by NASA for its deployment on the moon. One of the most intriguing details about this reactor is that it is capable of producing power that is enough to charge 10 International Space Stations. However, it has to be noted that the project was inaugurated in 2019 after receiving funds from the government.
It has been observed that China is continuously gaining ground in space technology as it gets its hands on some of the cutting-edge technologies, including cryogenic rockets, reusable launchers, and suborbital spaceplanes. The Chang’e 3 moon lander was also one of the developments in China in space technology which is capable of surviving a two-week lunar night. Moreover, Bhavya Lal, NASA’s senior advisor for budget and finance, said, “Strategic competitors, including China, are aggressively investing in a wide range of space technologies, including nuclear power and propulsion. The United States needs to move at a fast pace to stay competitive and to remain a leader in the global space community. “
On the other hand, NASA also projected on this matter and showed its interest in nuclear propulsion and electric propulsion systems as compared to conventional chemical rockets in discovering missions related to space. NASA said, “Nuclear electric propulsion systems accelerate spacecraft for extended periods and can propel a Mars mission for a fraction of the propellant of high-thrust systems.”
Similarly, Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, stated, “Nuclear technology has long played a vital role in prominent space missions. But future missions could rely on nuclear-powered systems for a much broader spectrum of applications. Our pathway to the stars runs through the atom.”