The Thermal Energy Conversion Branch (RPT) is responsible for planning, conducting, and directing research and technology development to advance the state-of-the art in a variety of thermal systems for space, aerospace, and non-aerospace applications. The systems of interest include thermal energy conversion for power systems for inclusion in Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) and Fission Surface Power (FSP) Systems. The effort involves working at the component level to develop the technology, the subsystem level to verify the performance of the technology, and the system level to ensure that the appropriate system level impact is achieved with the integrated technology. System analysis is used to identify high-impact technology areas, define the critical aspects of the technology that need to be developed, and characterize the system level impact of the technology. Specfic technology areas of interest include:
The overall effort is performed through a combination of coordinated contracts, grants, and in-house activities. Elements are often performed in direct support of specific projects and customers. These customers may be from within GRC, at other centers within the agency, outside the agency but within Government, or from the U.S. aerospace industry. When possible, collaborative and cooperative efforts are formulated to leverage the resources of the project.
Currently, RPT supports programs/projects from NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) for the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator ASRG) development to flight and Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) for the Fission Surface Power (FSP) System.