As science and technology advance, we’re asking our space missions to deliver more and more results. NASA’s MSL Curiosity and Perseverance rovers illustrate this fact. Perseverance is an exceptionally exquisite assemblage of technologies. These cutting-edge rovers need a lot of power to fulfill their tasks, and that means bulky and expensive power sources.
Space exploration is an increasingly energy-hungry endeavour. Orbiters and fly-by missions can perform their tasks using solar power, at least as far out as Jupiter. And ion drives can take spacecraft to more distant regions. But to really understand distant worlds like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, or even the more distant Pluto, we’ll need to eventually land a rover and/or lander on them just as we have on Mars.
Those missions require more power to operate, and that usually means MMRTGs (Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.) But they’re bulky, heavy, and expensive, three undesirable traits for spacecraft. Each one costs over $100 million. Is there a better solution?
Stephen Polly thinks there is.
Polly is a research scientist at the NanoPower Research Laboratories at the Rochester Institute of Technology. His work focuses on something most of us have likely never heard of: the development, growth, characterization, and integration of III-V materials by metalorganic vapour phase epitaxy (MOVPE).Continue reading… “Exploring the Outer Solar System Takes Power, Here’s a Way to Miniaturize Nuclear Batteries for Deep Space”