24/7 Space News  





. LockMart Thermoelectric Generator Powers NASA Pluto New Horizons Probe

by Staff Writers
Valley Forge PA (SPX) Jan 20, 2006
A Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG), built by Lockheed Martin at its Space Systems Company facility in Valley Forge, then fueled by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is providing electric power for NASA's Pluto New Horizons spacecraft.

Launched this afternoon from the Kennedy Space Center aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas V launch vehicle, the pioneering mission will undertake the first close-up reconnaissance of the solar system's most distant planet and its moon Charon in 2015, following a nine-year traverse of the solar system.

"It is because of a long and productive partnership with the DOE that we can work together to provide the energy technology that enables this close-up study of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt," said Robert W. Hepler, Lockheed Martin Radioisotope Powered Systems program manager. "It is with particular pride that we, as a company, are once again able to contribute to a seminal voyage of exploration."

Pluto, the only solar system planet yet to be explored by NASA, has a highly eccentric orbit averaging nearly six billion kilometers away from the Sun. At so great a distance, sunlight at Pluto provides only about 1/1600th of the solar energy available at Earth. Consequently, it is not possible to power the Pluto New Horizons spacecraft with solar cells.

A General Purpose Heat Source Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (GPHS-RTG) provides electrical power for the Pluto mission. Electricity for the Pluto New Horizons spacecraft is generated from the conversion of heat caused by the radioactive decay of plutonium in the form of plutonia (PuO2).

The RTG contains 18 heat source modules, with four 151-gram plutonia pellets in each. With a total mass of plutonia at 10.9 kilograms, the RTG will provide approximately 250 watts of power at the beginning of the mission.

After the Pluto encounter, the New Horizons spacecraft will head to the Kuiper Belt, a disk-shaped cloud beyond the orbit of Neptune where short- period comets are thought to form and objects called ice dwarfs and minor planets have been detected. New Horizons hopes to visit multiple Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).

The KBO encounters and mission tasks are similar to the Pluto-Charon encounter. The spacecraft will map the surface of each KBO, measure composition using infrared spectroscopy and generate four-color maps. It will also search for any atmosphere. This phase of the mission could last from five to 10 years.

The primary scientific objectives of the Pluto New Horizons mission during the Pluto-Charon and KBO encounters include: characterization of the global geology and morphology, mapping of the surface composition and, characterization of the neutral atmosphere and its escape rate.

Today's launch provides an opportunity for the spacecraft to perform a gravity assist maneuver with Jupiter, enabling it to reach Pluto by 2015.

Related Links




Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


hello world
NASA Delays Pluto Probe Launch Again
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 19, 2006
NASA has postponed the launch of its New Horizons Pluto probe "for at least one more day" due to a power outage at the laboratory managing the mission, the US space agency said Wednesday.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • Clipper Spacecraft Constructor To Be Announced In February 2006
  • NASA Restructures Aeronautics Research
  • Manned Spaceflight Plans For India To The ISS And Beyond
  • NASA Refines Design For Crew Exploration Vehicle

  • Ancient Mega Asteroid Dusted Earth
  • Spirit At Arad
  • Martian Snow Source of Tropical Glaciers, Research Team Reports
  • Festoons And Ferric Sulfate Salts Keep Rovers Occupied

  • JAXA Delays H2A Launch Land Observing Satellite Daichi
  • Telesat Chooses ILS To Launch Nimiq 4 On Proton Vehicle
  • Rundown Of This Year's Launch Activities At Esrange
  • ISRO To Commercialise Launch Vehicle Technology

  • TIGER Innovators Enhance North-South Collaboration
  • EPA Obtains Agencywide Access To GlobeXplorer Online Earth Imagery Services
  • New Legislation Initiated To Support Commercial Remote Sensing Industry
  • Indian Small EO Satellites To Study Atmosphere

  • LockMart Thermoelectric Generator Powers NASA Pluto New Horizons Probe
  • Spacecraft Bound For Pluto Supported By Aerojet Propulsion
  • NASA Launches Spacecraft To Pluto, The Kuipers And Stars Beyond
  • NASA Delays Pluto Probe Launch Again

  • Cartwheel Galaxy Makes Waves In New NASA Image
  • Astronomers Detect Largest Cluster Of Red Supergiants
  • Integral Identifies Supernova Rate For Milky Way
  • Large Survey Of Galaxies Yields New Findings On Star Formation

  • Jack Skis The Moon
  • Engineer Who Has Name On Moon Dies
  • Apollo Chronicles
  • An Explosion On The Moon

  • ESA, Galileo Industries Seal Deal For First 4 Galileo Sats
  • GLONASS To Have 18 Satellites In Orbit In 2008
  • Galileo Sends First Signals Based On Alcatel Alenia Space's Tech
  • EU, South Korea Seal Galileo Agreement

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement