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High efficiency dynamic radioisotope power systems for space exploration-a status report

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1 Author(s)
M. E. Hunt ; Rockwell Int. Corp., Canoga Park, CA, USA

Background on the space exploration program is discussed, and the currently identified NASA exploration missions are contrasted with the missions that were being planned a year ago. Developments in high-efficiency dynamic radioisotope power systems are discussed: and Brayton and Stirling power conversion cycles are compared for the missions planned for the next decade. Issues related to the use of high-efficiency radioisotope (HER) power systems are identified. It is noted that HER power systems are approximately three times as efficient as current radioisotope thermoelectric generators(RTGs) and are therefore significantly cheaper. Additionally, the world's supply of /sup 238/Pu is extremely limited. Currently discussed missions would cut deeply into this supply if powered by RTGs.<>

Published in:

IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine  (Volume:8 ,  Issue: 12 )