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Plutonium-238 Power Source


Development of Plutonium-238 Small-Sized Low Power Radiation Safe Thermal and Electric Radio nuclide Power Sources Intended for Use During Long Space Flights Aimed at the Investigation of the Outer Planets and Small Bodies of the Solar System

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-ISO/Isotopes/Fission Reactors
  • SAT-EXP/Extraterrestrial Exploration/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Russian Academy of Sciences / Space Research Institute, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • State Enterprise Krasnaya Zvezda, Russia, Moscow\nElectromechanical Plant "Avangard", Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov\nDesign Bureau of Physics Earth Institute of RAS, Russia, Moscow


  • Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie, Germany, Mainz\nUniversity of Chicago, USA, IL, Chicago

Project summary

The goal of the project is to develop and design the new generation of compact radionuclide thermoelectric generators (RTGs) utilizing Plutonium-238, with power range of 0,1 – 50 W at increased efficiency of 4–9%, with improved mass and dimensional properties.

The development and design of RTG comprises model calculations of RTG and radionuclide heat units (RHUs), calculation and experimental studies for optimizing the RHU and RTG technical parameters, as well as developing the radiation and nuclear safety concept for RHUs and RTGs under normal operating conditions and during failures which may occur during launching of the spacecraft by Proton and Molnia missiles.

The project will help to develop and design the new generation of the RHUs with thermal power range 60 – 600 W, as well as RTGs with up to 50 W electrical power output, complying with all international requirements and rules for safe performance in space.

During investigation the results of previous studies conducted by the project’s participants on similar subjects, including design of RTG and RHU for the “Mars-96” spacecraft, as well as some foreign studies shall utilize.

The foreign participants will represent the interests of their institutions in conducting the project, as well as provide for joint discussions and analysis of the project's results.


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