- Conference date: 11-14 Feb 2001
- Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
A milliwatt power supply is being developed based on the 1 watt Light-Weight Radioisotope Heater Unit (RHU), which has already been used to provide heating alone on numerous spacecraft. In the past year the power supply has been integrated into the design of the proposed PASCAL Mars Network Mission, which is intended to place 24 surface climate monitoring stations on Mars. The PASCAL Mars mission calls for the individual surface stations to be transported together in one spacecraft on a trajectory direct from launch to orbit around Mars. From orbit around Mars each surface station will be deployed on a SCRAMP (slotted compression ramp) probe and, after aerodynamic and parachute deceleration, land at a preselected location on the planet. During descent sounding data and still images will be accumulated, and, once on the surface, the station will take measurements of pressure, temperature and overhead atmospheric optical depth for a period of 10 Mars years (18.8 Earth years). Power for periodic data acquisition and transmission to orbital then to Earth relay will come from a bank of ultracapacitors which will be continuously recharged by the radioisotope power supply. This electronic system has been designed and a breadboard built. In the ultimate design the electronics will be arrayed on the exterior surface of the radioisotope power supply in order to take advantage of the reject heat. This assembly in turn is packaged within the SCRAMP, and that assembly comprises the surface station. An electrically heated but otherwise prototypical power supply was operated in combination with the surface station breadboard system, which included the ultracapacitors. Other issues addressed in this work have been the capability of the generator to withstand the mechanical shock of the landing on Mars and the effectiveness of the generator’s multi-foil vacuum thermal insulation.
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