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SNAP-10A

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 Source: The Hindu

 Context: Launched on April 3, 1965, SNAP-10A was the world’s first operational nuclear reactor in space. While it still remains in orbit, it was operational for just 43 days. 

 

About nuclear reactors:

A class of devices that contain and control sustained nuclear chain reactions, these systems are at the heart of any nuclear power plant.

 

Nuclear Reactor in Earth orbit:

  • The U.S.’ first and only known space nuclear reactor, the SNAP-10A was the result of the government-sponsored System for Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) programme, also known as SNAPSHOT for Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power Shot.
  • The SNAP reactors had liquid sodium-potassium alloy as the coolant. A thermoelectric enriched uranium fuel with zirconium hydride as a moderator converter was used to directly convert heat from the reactor into electricity.
  • Russia has sent quite a few of them, including one that crashed and scattered radioactive debris over Canada in 1978.