NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Utilizing Radioisotope Power System Waste Heat for Spacecraft Thermal ManagementAn advantage of using a Radioisotope Power System (RPS) for deep space or planetary surface missions is the readily available waste heat, which can be used for a number of beneficial purposes including: maintaining electronic components within a controlled temperature range, warming propulsion tanks and mobility actuators, and maintaining liquid propellants above their freezing temperature. Previous missions using Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) dissipated large quantities of waste heat due to the low efficiency of the thermoelectric conversion technology. The next generation RPSs, such as the 110-Watt Stirling Radioisotope Generator (SRG110) will have higher conversion efficiencies, thereby rejecting less waste heat at a lower temperature and may require alternate approaches to transferring waste heat to the spacecraft. RTGs, with efficiencies of ~6 to 7 percent, reject their waste heat at the relatively high heat rejection temperature of 200 C. This is an advantage when rejecting heat to space; however, transferring heat to the internal spacecraft components requires a large and heavy radiator heat exchanger. At the same time, sensitive spacecraft instruments must be shielded from the thermal radiation of the RTG. The SRG110, with an efficiency around 22 percent and 50 C nominal housing surface temperature, can readily transfer the available waste heat directly via heat pipes, thermal straps, or fluid loops. The lower temperatures associated with the SRG110 avoid the chances of overheating other scientific components, eliminating the need for thermal shields. This provides the spacecraft designers more flexibility when locating the generator for a specific mission. A common misconception with high-efficiency systems is that there is not enough waste heat for spacecraft thermal management. This paper will dispel this misconception and investigate the use of a high-efficiency SRG110 for spacecraft thermal management and outline potential methods of waste heat utilization in several conceptual missions (Lunar Rover, Mars Rover, and Titan Lander). The advantages associated with the SRG110 as they relate to ease of assembly, less complex interfaces, and overall mass savings for a spacecraft will be highlighted.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Glenn Research Center
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Pantano, David R.
(Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. United States)
Dottore, Frank
(Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. United States)
Tobery, E. Wayne
(Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. United States)
Geng, Steven M.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Schreiber, Jeffrey G.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Palko, Joseph L.
(Connecticut Researve Technologies, LLC OH, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
October 1, 2005
Subject Category
Fluid Mechanics And Thermodynamics
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2005-5548
Meeting Information
Meeting: Third International Energy Conversion Engineerging Conference
Location: San Francisco, CA
Country: United States
Start Date: August 15, 2005
End Date: August 18, 2005
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
No Preview Available