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NASA Low-Power Stirling Convertor for Small Landers, Probes, and Rovers Operating in DarknessA variety of mission concepts have been studied by NASA and the U. S. Department of Energy that would utilize low power Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) for landers, probes, and rovers. These missions would contain science measuring instruments distributed across planetary surfaces or near objects of interest where solar flux is insufficient for using solar cells. Landers could be used to provide data like wind, temperature, pressure, seismic activity, and other planetary measurements to mission planners or future explorers. The studies proposed using fractional versions of the General Purpose Heat Source (GPHS) or multiple Light Weight Radioisotope Heater Units (LWRHU) to heat power conversion technologies for science instruments and communication. Dynamic power systems are capable of higher conversion efficiencies, which could enable equal power using less fuel or more power using equal fuel, when compared to less efficient static power conversion technologies. Providing spacecraft with more power would decrease duty cycling of basic functions and, therefore, increase the quality and abundance of science data. Low power Stirling convertors are being developed at NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) to provide future micro spacecraft with electrical power by converting heat from one or more LWRHUs. An initial design converts multiple Watts of heat to one Watt of electrical power output using a Stirling convertor. Development of the concept includes maturation of convertor and controller designs, performance evaluation of an evacuated metal foil insulation, and development of system interfaces.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Wilson, Scott D.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Schifer, Nicholas A.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Geng, Steven M.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Reid, Terry V.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Penswick, Lawrence B.
(Universities Space Research Association (USRA) Cleveland, OH, United States)
Casciani, Michael R.
(Vantage Partners, LLC Brook Park, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
November 20, 2018
Publication Date
November 1, 2018
Subject Category
Electronics And Electrical Engineering
Energy Production And Conversion
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
International Energy Conversion Engineering Conference(Cincinnati, OH)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 138494.
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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