Temperature-time distribution and thermal stresses on the RTG fins and shell during water coolingRadioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) packages designed for space missions generally do not require active cooling. However, the heat they generate cannot remain inside of the launch vehicle bay and requires active removal. Therefore, before the Shuttle bay door is closed, the RTG coolant tubes attached to the heat rejection fins must be filled with water, which will circulate and remove most of the heat from the cargo bay. There is concern that charging a system at initial temperature around 200 C with water at 24 C can cause unacceptable thermal stresses in the RTG shell and fins. A computer model is developed to estimate the transient temperature distribution resulting from such charging. The thermal stresses resulting from the temperature gradients do not exceed the elastic deformation limit for the material. Since the simplified mathematical model for thermal stresses tends to overestimate stresses, it is concluded that the RTG can be cooled by introducing water at 24 C to the initially hot fin coolant tubes while the RTG is in the Shuttle cargo bay.
Turner, R. H. (California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena CA, United States)