Slice of History: Cesium-Lithium Test System

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we’ll be featuring a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at

Cesium-Lithium Test System
Cesium-Lithium Test System — Photograph Number 383-5651Ac

As early as 1961, JPL’s Propulsion Division was working on a new type of power system for future spacecraft that would have to travel great distances and operate for long periods of time. The goal was to convert nuclear power to electric power without the use of moving mechanical parts. During the 1960s various magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) generator configurations and fluids such as liquid metal were tested in an effort to develop the most efficient power conversion system. This October 1970 photo shows a test system which used cesium and lithium and was referred to as an erosion loop. At left is the vacuum chamber that was moved into place over the erosion loop and sealed before testing. The project was cancelled in 1973 and this test equipment was put into storage.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.

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    4 Responses to “Slice of History: Cesium-Lithium Test System”

  1. Slice of History: Cesium-Lithium Test System | JPL Blog | Hometown Pasadena | Says:
    February 18th, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    [...] the Full Story at JPL [...]

  2. guest9501331236 Says:
    February 26th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    i believe in science)

  3. EOS 1100D Says:
    August 15th, 2011 at 8:31 am


    Blog - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory » Blog Archive » Slice of History: Cesium-Lithium Test System…

  4. Michael Haskins Says:
    January 24th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Wow! - that’s my father (Glenn Michael Haskins) in the picture!- I googled “lithium cesium mhd” and found the linkI remember that the equipment once caught fire and they had to disconnect power and just let it burn as cesium burns in water - I had thought it was to be used for some type of advanced propulsion such as ion drive rocket, but I was just a 14 year old kid at the time.

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