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Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research

Radioisotope Power Systems Technology Development

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

Radioisotope Power Systems Technology Development

The goal of the RPS's technology portfolio is to advance performance of radioisotope power systems through new and novel innovations being developed and transitioned to flight systems.

Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) is a multicenter, multiagency (with the Department of Energy (DOE)) program whose purpose is to manage the Science Mission Directorate's investments in radioisotope power systems and their deployment to future missions. The majority of these missions are a result of planning arising from the Planetary Science Division. RPS is responsible for acquisition and development of thermal energy conversion technologies and related system technologies and with the DOE, acquisition and development of flight radioisotope power systems for future mission uses. In addition, the RPS Program is responsible for maintaining a capability to acquire future systems through strategic investment in unique competencies that may be needed by future missions. One element of RPS is Radioisotope Power Systems Technology Development. The goal of the radioisotope power systems' technology portfolio is to advance performance of RPS through new and novel innovations being developed and transitioned to flight systems. Historically, this has been achieved through an increase of energy conversion efficiency. The mission users benefit from such a gain in performance because an increase in the specific power (power per unit mass) reduces the spacecraft mass. This reduction can also enable a larger instrument suite. The effort to improve efficiency has taken on renewed significance with the increased constraint posed by a limited supply of Pu-238. Current investments include improving efficiency of thermoelectrics through novel materials selections, the Stirling conversion process, and supported systems development on materials and electronics.

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