Space Nuclear Power the Dawn of a New Age

James Werner
Idaho National Laboratory
Space Nuclear Systems and Technology Division


Power in the form or electrical generation or thrust is essential for any scientific or manned exploration of our universe.  Solar panels and fuel cells are versatile, but have serious limitations either as we approach the sun or travel past the moon.  Nuclear power provides the needed energy source for both electrical power generation and propulsion.  Radioisotope power generation systems have played a critical role in the exploration of our solar system beginning with the pioneer and Viking probes continuing on through New Horizons which will arrive at Pluto in July of 2015.  Nuclear fission power is currently being studied to provide the power and the thrust for manned missions to Mars. It truly has the potential to open the solar system for in depth exploration by either robotic or manned space flights.