24/7 Space News
Young Student Explores Future Potential of Radioisotope Power Systems
NASA file image of the Mars Science Lab's RPS being assembled on the Curiosity rover.
Young Student Explores Future Potential of Radioisotope Power Systems
by Aadya Karthik
Redmond, Washington (SPX) May 29, 2024

Power to Explore is a NASA essay writing competition organized by Future Engineers. It invites K-12 students to envision an RPS-powered space mission to a "dark, dusty, or distant" destination.

In 250 words or less, we were asked to describe:

+ the mission destination and goals
+ the importance of radioisotope power systems in the mission
+ our unique "power" that will help ensure mission success.

I've been participating in this competition for 3 years now, allowing me to further expand and deepen my knowledge of RPS. Prior to writing my essay, I had to first research what RPS is, the physical principles behind this technology, and the benefits of RPS in NASA missions.

Through my research, I learned that RPS uses the heat from the radioactive decay of the unstable atom Plutonium-238 to create electricity. This provides adequate power to a spacecraft and its instruments. When sending spacecraft to an area with limited sunlight, solar panels are no longer a viable source of power. In such circumstances, RPS becomes critical to effectively provide enough power for the mission to operate.

When I first started participating in this competition, I mainly researched the RTG system aboard the Mars 2020 mission (Perseverance and Ingenuity), because at the time, Perseverance had only recently landed on Mars.

Since then, I have studied numerous other missions that have utilized RPS, such as Voyager 1 and 2, Ulysses, Cassini, and New Horizons. Each of these missions has pushed the boundaries of human exploration, enabling us to study the remote regions of our own celestial neighborhood. I can't help but wonder what exciting new discoveries RPS will enable in the future.

Like many other NASA technologies, I believe that, in the future, RPS could also have uses on Earth. Not only can RPS serve as an RTG (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator), but it can also serve as an RHU (Radioisotope Heater Unit).

With further development, I surmise that RPS technologies could be used for a variety of different extreme scenarios on Earth. They could be used as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels to power and heat research stations in Antarctica, as well as in deep-sea exploration missions. However, prior to experimenting with such applications, further research into the safety and feasibility of RPS must occur.

Currently, NASA and DOE are developing a new type of RPS known as the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG), which is expected to be four times more efficient than the previous systems.

Using Faraday's Law and technologies similar to those used in IC engines, ASRGs could increase the potential of the limited US supply of Pu-238. However, ASRGs may only be the first step towards revolutionizing the capacity and longevity of our spacecraft.

From the SNAP-3B in 1961 to the ASRGs today, RPS technologies have come a long way in terms of their energy capacity and efficiency. In ancient times, putting something in space may have seemed impossible; however, now, Voyager 1 is rocketing out of our solar system. Similarly, centuries from now, RPS will likely enable humans to push the boundaries of space exploration in ways we can never dream of today.

+ Aadya Karthik, Redmond, Washington, fifth through eighth grade

NASA Announces Winners of Power to Explore Challenge

Related Links
Power to Explore Challenge
Radioisotope Power Systems
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Radioisotope thermoradiative cells: advancing power generation for outer planet missions
Washington DC (SPX) May 02, 2024
Continuing from Phase I, researchers are expanding on the development of a power source that transforms the paradigm of thermal power conversion. The thermoradiative cell (TRC), operating analogously to a solar cell but in reverse, converts heat from a radioisotope source into infrared light, which is then emitted into space, generating electricity. Initial studies demonstrated a potential generation of 8 W from a 62.5 W Pu-238 pellet using a 0.28 eV bandgap TRC at 600 K, covering over 50% of a 6U cubes ... read more

Roscosmos Progress 88 cargo spacecraft docked at the International Space Station

Artemis III Integrated Test Achieves Major Milestone

Take three for Boeing Starliner crewed launch attempt

Russian cosmonaut logs record 1,000th day in space

Young Student Explores Future Potential of Radioisotope Power Systems

Boeing Starliner's crewed launch abruptly halted, again

Europe's long-delayed Ariane 6 rocket set for July 9 launch

NASA to decide when to reschedule Starliner crewed launch

Martian meteorites offer insights into Red Planet's structure

Mars' subsurface ice could be a key to sustaining future habitats on other planets

NASA seeks faster, more affordable Mars sample return mission

South Korea targets Mars mission with new space centre

Shenzhou 18 crew conducts first spacewalk

Zebrafish on China's space station reported to be in good condition

China sends experimental satellite into orbit with Long March 4C rocket

International Support for China's Chang'e-6 Lunar Mission

Nara Space Secures $14.5M Series B to Expand Satellite Fleet

CGI works on new interfaces for European Space Agency to expand satellite communications market

Intelsat enhances satellite lifespan with mission extension vehicles

KT SAT signs MoU with Rivada for next-generation data network

European Team Validates Flow Models in Zero Gravity

10 Benefits of Using 360Learning for Your Company's Learning Needs

Where is the Best Place to Buy Used Books?

Security considerations in flight launcher software

NASA selects industry proposals to advance technologies for Habitable Worlds Observatory

Why do astronomers look for signs of life on other planets based on what life is like on Earth?

NASA's Webb Telescope Observes Potentially Habitable Exoplanets

Newly Discovered Planet Retains Atmosphere Despite Star's Intense Radiation

Unusual Ion May Influence Uranus and Neptune's Magnetic Fields

NASA's Europa Clipper Arrives in Florida for Launch Preparation

New Earth-Based Telescope Images of Jupiter's Moon Io Match Spacecraft Quality

Peering into Pluto's hidden ocean

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.