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 https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.
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.