Powering to new destinations in space

Posted by pt91 at Jun 27, 2018 11:49 AM |
Space explorers seek alliances with power companies to accomplish new missions at University of Leicester co-organised event on 27-28 June

Issued by University of Leicester on 27 June 2018

Experts in nuclear power systems for spacecraft are to gather at an international innovation exchange event co-organised by the University of Leicester.

The European Space Agency (ESA) in partnership with the World Nuclear Association, the European Nuclear Society, European industry and the University of Leicester are gathering representatives from industry, academia and government organisations to discuss space nuclear power systems and radioisotope technologies to advance space exploration.

The international space exploration community has the ambition to explore the colder, darker, distant and more inhospitable environments in the solar system while promoting a greater involvement of humans in deep space missions. Diversification in sources of electricity and heat under these operational scenarios is needed to provide a full spectrum of power generation options to achieve these exploration ambitions.

The University of Leicester is spearheading the development of new power generation technologies for space exploration as part of a European Space Agency funded programme. Leicester is a global leader in the development space nuclear power systems for electrical power generation, spacecraft heating and thermal management in the form of radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) and radioisotope heater units (RHUs).

Radioisotope systems can provide a baseline continuous supply of electricity and heat; operational safety, by assuring long-term continuity and autonomy.

Professor Richard Ambrosi, Professor of Space Instrumentation & Space Nuclear Power Systems at the University of Leicester, said: “In order to push forward the boundaries of space exploration, innovations in power generation, robotics, autonomous vehicles and advanced instrumentation are needed.

“This event is shaped to further develop the strategic partnerships required to take the technology solutions from a research and development environment into a sustainable industry-based environment. The transition from prototype system to a product offering an alternative source of power for space exploration missions is the next step in the evolution of these technologies.”

The ESA Innovation Exchange – Radioisotopes for Science, Exploration and Applications on 27-28 June 2018 at ESTEC in Noordwijk – offers stakeholders in Europe and international partners the opportunity to discuss the state of the art in radioisotope power systems, European space nuclear power systems utilising americium-241 in exploration efforts as well as the diverse non-space uses of americium-241 as a product in its own right.

The event programme is shaped according to the “4 I’s” of engagement – Information, Inspiration, Interaction, Innovation – of the ESA Space 4.0 Strategy. The two-day event includes sessions on utilisation of space nuclear power technologies; the uses of americium-241; interactive sessions and opportunity for the exchange of innovative ideas for making space exploration advancements possible.

Notes to editors:


The committee is chaired by ESA with input from diverse affiliations such as University of Leicester, Observatoire de Paris, European JRC-Karlsruhe, UK National Nuclear Laboratory, UK Space Agency, French Space Agency – Centre national d’études spatiales CNES and the World Nuclear Association.

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