Radioisotope power systems provide heat and electricity to the spacecraft and equipment, particularly in the exploration of planetary surfaces like Mars, where it may be the only power source available. However, the presence of radioactive material requires extra measures to ensure safety, requiring nuclear experts to ensure mission success and security.
Boston Government Services (BGS), in coordination with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Space Nuclear Power and Isotope Technologies (SNPIT) division, developed analysis and safety strategies for future NASA missions utilizing the lightweight radioisotope heater unit (LWRHU), the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) (eight GPHS modules) and GPHS-Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) (eighteen GPHS modules).
BGS conducted a radiological dispersion and launch accident consequence analysis to provide technical input and data crucial to the development of mission launch safety packages. BGS experts developed an approved launch safety strategy for specific vehicles and spacecraft, including solid and liquid propellants and explosive materials (e.g., pyrotechnic devices). These system-specific safety analysis reports (SARs) were developed utilizing information from existing, evaluated, and launched radioisotope powered system configurations.
BGS analysis has also addressed reduced fuel clad ductility when operating at lower temperatures. BGS incorporated current Department of Energy guidance for air dispersion modeling and accident analysis techniques to update models and radiological impact estimates due to the releases of plutonium dioxide in the launch safety accident analysis. Bare clad impact tests continue and will be evaluated for incorporation into the launch safety analysis.
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