MALIBU, Calif. October 5, 2015 — HRL Laboratories, LLC announced today that it will develop new ultra-lightweight materials for future aerospace vehicles and structures under NASA’s Game Changing Development Program. These new materials can NASA to reduce the mass of spacecraft for deep space exploration by 40 percent and are necessary for the journey to Mars and beyond.
The main nuclear power source used by US space missions is the Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). A solid state device, an RTG uses the heat from plugs of plutonium 238 as either a way to keep electronics warm, or to generate electricity using thermocouples. It&aposs a mechanically simple system that has been used for 50 years for powering the mission lunar experiment packages, the and Mars landers, and the Pioneer, , Galileo, , Ulysses, and deep space missions. It could also be used in Earth orb
Thanks to the Cold War-era space race, U.S. engineers an easy source - Plutonium-238, a byproduct created during the production of weapons-grade plutonium-239.A Stirling engine uses heat to create pressure forces that move a piston, which is coupled to an alternator to produce electricity, similar in some way to an automobile engine.
A nuclear thermal rocket has double the efficiency of the Space Shuttle main engine, one of the hardest-working standard chemical engines of the past 40 years. That capability makes nuclear thermal propulsion ideal for delivering large, automated payloads to distant worlds.