A Simple Model for Radioisotope Power System Performance in the Titan Environment

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R.D. Lorenz (2010), JBIS, 63, 9-14

Refcode: 2010.63.9
Keywords: Radioisotope power, Stirling Generator, Convective Heat transfer, Titan

Abstract:
Like other energy conversion devices, the performance of Radioisotope Power Systems (RPSs) for spacecraft depend on the heat transfer boundary conditions. In planetary environments, the heat transfer, and thus the RPS operating conditions and performance may be different from those in free space. In particular, we develop a simple model (based on an endoreversible heat engine with a specified heat sink) for the performance of an Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) in the dense, cold atmosphere of Titan. We find the power output of an ideal RPS in the Titan environment could be considerably superior to that in space vacuum, although an internal heat leak of the present ASRG design may somewhat compromise this improvement, resulting in an output close to, or up to 15% smaller than, predicted vacuum output. Since the model suggests significant variation due to two competing effects, performance testing in representative conditions is urgently recommended.

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