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Thermoelectric Outer Planets Spacecraft (TOPS)The research and advanced development work is reported on a ballistic-mode, outer planet spacecraft using radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) power. The Thermoelectric Outer Planet Spacecraft (TOPS) project was established to provide the advanced systems technology that would allow the realistic estimates of performance, cost, reliability, and scheduling that are required for an actual flight mission. A system design of the complete RTG-powered outer planet spacecraft was made; major technical innovations of certain hardware elements were designed, developed, and tested; and reliability and quality assurance concepts were developed for long-life requirements. At the conclusion of its active phase, the TOPS Project reached its principal objectives: a development and experience base was established for project definition, and for estimating cost, performance, and reliability; an understanding of system and subsystem capabilities for successful outer planets missions was achieved. The system design answered long-life requirements with massive redundancy, controlled by on-board analysis of spacecraft performance data.
Document ID
Document Type
Contractor Report (CR)
Date Acquired
September 2, 2013
Publication Date
April 1, 1973
Subject Category
Nuclear Engineering
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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