NASA'S RPS Design Reference Mission Set for Solar System Exploration

Tibor S. Balint
2007 AIP Conference Proceedings  
NASA's 2006 Solar System Exploration (SSE) Strategic Roadmap identified a set of proposed large Flagship, medium New Frontiers and small Discovery class missions, addressing key exploration objectives. These objectives respond to the recommendations by the National Research Council (NRC), reported in the SSE Decadal Survey. The SSE Roadmap is down-selected from an over-subscribed set of missions, called the SSE Design Reference Mission (DRM) set. Missions in the Flagship and New Frontiers
more » ... s can consider Radioisotope Power Systems (RPSs), while small Discovery class missions are not permitted to use them, due to cost constraints. In line with the SSE DRM set and the SSE Roadmap missions, the RPS DRM set represents a set of missions, which can be enabled or enhanced by RPS technologies. At present, NASA has proposed the development of two new types of RPSs. These are the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), with static power conversion; and the Stirling Radioisotope Generator (SRG), with dynamic conversion. Advanced RPSs, under consideration for possible development, aim to increase specific power levels. In effect, this would either increase electric power generation for the same amount of fuel, or reduce fuel requirements for the same power output, compared to the proposed MMRTG or SRG. Operating environments could also influence the design, such that an RPS on the proposed Titan Explorer would use smaller fins to minimize heat rejection in the extreme cold environment; while the Venus Mobile Explorer longlived in-situ mission would require the development of a new RPS, in order to tolerate the extreme hot environment, and to simultaneously provide active cooling to the payload and other electric components. This paper discusses NASA's SSE RPS DRM set, in line with the SSE DRM set. It gives a qualitative assessment regarding the impact of various RPS technology and configuration options on potential mission architectures, which could support NASA's RPS technology development planning, and provide an understanding of fuel need trades over the next three decades.
doi:10.1063/1.2437502 fatcat:nqxkylshsbdghpslhc5te2p7mq