NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) are working together to enable more space missions through the development of Dynamic Radioisotope Power Systems (DRPS) that utilize moving parts to generate a current. NASA is working to achieve efficiencies in DRPS on the order of 3-4 times greater than the current state of the art RTG. This increase in efficiency provides more power per kilogram of generator mass. This means that a mission could have more power and potentially use less of the radioisotope fuel, limiting the amount of radiation and waste heat that they produce. These options make a DRPS ideal for certain human exploration missions and a viable option for specialized science missions.
David Woerner’s paper on “Next-Generation RTGs for NASA” won the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 2017 Aerospace Power Systems Best Paper Award.
Few missions can match the achievements of NASA's groundbreaking Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft during their 40 years of exploration. Here's a short list of their major accomplishments to date.
Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.
A cutting-edge development in spacecraft power systems is a class of materials with an unfamiliar name: skutterudites (skut-ta-RU-dites). Researchers are studying the use of these advanced materials in a proposed next-generation power system called an eMMRTG, which stands for Enhanced Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.
Ulysses, a joint NASA and European Space Agency mission, officially ceased operations today, after receiving commands from ground controllers to do so.