NASA, national lab take next step to develop dynamic radioisotope power system

February 15, 2021

By INL Media Relations

INL News Release
Feb. 15, 2021

Jeff Pinkham, 208-317-7842, [email protected]
Sarah Neumann, 208-520-1651, [email protected]

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Battelle Energy Alliance LLC, the management and operating contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL), announces the next step in designing a new power system for space exploration.

The Dynamic Radioisotope Power System (RPS) will be designed for a potential lunar demonstration mission by the late 2020s. INL is partnering with NASA and DOE to seek industry engagement to further the design of this new system.

The goal of this technology demonstration project is to develop and demonstrate performance of a system that is three times more efficient than the current RPS technology. The Dynamic RPS will use heat released from the decay of plutonium-238 to create electricity for a spacecraft via dynamic power conversion. Dynamic power conversion is more efficient than thermoelectric conversion used in current systems such as the Mars Curiosity and Perseverance rovers. This increased system efficiency will allow a Dynamic RPS to produce the same amount of electric power with less plutonium-238, and extend radioisotope power to larger systems.

The next step of this multiphase project is engagement with space system integrator contractors to design system level concepts. Over the next seven years, the project will progress through additional phases to fabricate and qualify a Dynamic RPS for future science exploration missions, which could include small lunar experiments, rovers or small spacecraft.


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Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, celebrating 75 years of scientific innovations in 2024. The laboratory performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. 

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Posted February 15, 2021

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