NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Advisory – Planned Maintenance: On Monday, July 15 at 9 PM Eastern the STI Compliance and Distribution Services will be performing planned maintenance on the STI Repository (NTRS) for approximately one hour. During this time users will not be able to access the STI Repository (NTRS).

Back to Results
Stirling Engine ControllerStirling technology is being developed to replace RTG s (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators), more specifically a stirling convertor, which is a stirling engine coupled to a linear alternator. Over the past three decades, the stirling engine has been designed to perform different functions. Stirling convertors have been designed to decrease fuel consumption in automobiles. They have also been designed for terrestrial and space applications. Currently NASA Glenn is using the convertor for space based applications. A stiring converter is a better means of power for deep space mission and "dusty" mission, like the Mars Rovers, than solar panels because it is not affected by dust. Spirit and Opportunity, two Mars rovers currently navigating the planet, are losing their ability to generate electricity because dust is collecting on their solar panels. Opportunity is losing more energy because its robotic arm has a heater with a switch that can not be turned off. The heater is not needed at night, but yet still runs. This generates a greater loss of electricity and in turn diminishes the performance of the rover. The stirling cycle has the potential to provide very efficient conversion of heat energy to electric a1 energy, more so than RTG's. The stirling engine converts the thermal energy produced by the decaying radioisotope to mechanical energy; the linear alternator converts this into electricity. convertor. Since the early 1990's tests have been performed to maximize the efficiency of the stirling converter. Many months, even years, are dedicated to preparing and performing tests. Currently, two stirling convertors #'s 13 and 14, which were developed by Stirling Technology Company, are on an extended operation test. As of June 7th, the two convertors reached 7,500 hours each of operation. Before the convertors could run unattended, many safety precautions had to be examined. So, special instrumentation and circuits were developed to detect off nominal conditions and also safely shutdown the engines. The test will last for a period of 8000 to 9000 hours. Other types of tests that have been performed are: performance mapping, controller development, launch environment, and vibration emissions testing. Currently, the thermo-mechanical system branch is housing a RG-350, a stirling convertor. The convertor was used in previous tests such as a Hall Thruster test, world s first integrated test of a dynamic power system with electric propulsion. Another test performed was to conclude if free piston stirling convertors can be synchronized for vibration balancing, with no thermodynamic or electrical connections and not cause both to shutdown if one failed. The ability to reduce vibration by synchronizing convertor operation but still be able to operate when one partner fails is pertinent in space and terrestrial applications. The convertor is now being brought back into operation and a controller is in the process of being developed. This convertor will be used as a testbed for new controllers. I worked with Mary Ellen Roth on the electric engineering aspects of the RG-350. My main goal was to enhance the data collection process. I worked on different aspects of the RG-350, with a main focus on the engine controller. I drew a schematic of the wire connections in the engine controller, using PCB Express, so that a plan could be devised to connect the power meter properly between the output of the engine and the engine controller. I measured the power using two different instruments: Valhalla Scientific power meter and Ohio Semitronics power measurement device. The convertor is connected to an Agilent 34970A Data Acquisition/Switch Unit, which allows the user to measure, record, and monitor voltage, current, frequency, and temperature. I assisted in preparing the Data Acquisition for general operation. I also helped test a panel of transducers, which will be placed in the rack that powers and monitors the convertor.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Blaze, Gina M.
(Cleveland State Univ. Cleveland, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2004
Publication Information
Publication: Research Symposium I
Subject Category
Avionics And Aircraft Instrumentation
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

Available Downloads

There are no available downloads for this record.
No Preview Available