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Space Power Systems


Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company, systems currently power the International Space Station as well as the Curiosity and Perseverance Rovers on Mars. They will also power Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Spacecraft and NASA’s Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s moon, Titan. We are working on new systems to power future deep space missions as well as lunar and Martian surface operations.

Space Power Systems and Solutions Include:

  • Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) and Next Generation Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG)
  • Fission Surface Power System
  • Electric Power Systems
  • Lithium-Ion Batteries

Space Power System Programs

Powering Curiosity Rover and Mars Perseverance Rover

Powering the Curiosity and Perseverance Mars Rovers

MMRTG and Next Generation RTG

Aerojet Rocketdyne supplied the power sources for NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover and Mars Perseverance Rover, enabling them to move around and conduct experiments on the red planet.

The MMRTG is the latest in a long line of RTGs that have powered deep space probes since the 1960s. RTGs use heat from the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 to generate electrical power and to provide thermal stability for spacecraft instruments and mechanical systems. Intended to operate in a range of harsh environments, from the vacuum of deep space to extreme planetary atmospheres, the MMRTG was designed and developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne with Teledyne Energy Systems under contract to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Powering Future Deep Space Missions

Aerojet Rocketdyne is currently building an RTG that will be launched in 2027 for use on NASA’s Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s moon, Titan.

The company is also under contract to design, build and demonstrate key components for a Next Generation RTG to power future deep space missions, possibly including a proposed probe to the ice giant Uranus.

Designed to operate in a vacuum, the Next Generation RTG is similar to the legacy RTGs that powered relatively recent robotic NASA missions to Saturn and Pluto, but with enhanced safety features and other updates to address obsolescence issues.

Powering lunar surface operations

Powering lunar surface operations

Fission Surface Power System

Aerojet Rocketdyne has teamed with Westinghouse Government Services to design a lightweight Fission Surface Power system that could be demonstrated on the surface of the Moon before the end of the decade.

The 40 Kilowatt system is intended to provide power equivalent to what would run 10 households continuously for 10 years. A future demonstration will pave the way for sustainable operations on the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program. Nuclear power can provide steady, reliable power for lunar and Mars surface operations regardless of environmental conditions.

The Fission Surface Power project is sponsored by NASA in collaboration with the Department of Energy and Idaho National Laboratory.

Powering Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft®

Powering Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft®

Electric Power Systems

Aerojet Rocketdyne was awarded a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation to supply the electric power system for the Dream Chaser, a reusable commercial spacecraft that will carry cargo to and from the International Space Station. We will design, develop, fabricate, test and integrate Dream Chaser’s electric power system, including power conversion, distribution units and rechargeable batteries.

The power system will regulate power generated from Dream Chaser’s solar arrays and distribute it to the avionics, thermal and propulsion systems, as well as payloads that require electric power. The capacity of the rechargeable batteries will allow Dream Chaser to increase its free-flight time in space, as well as support the spacecraft's cargo delivery and return journey back to Earth.

Powering the International Space Station

Powering the International Space Station

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Aerojet Rocketdyne has made key contributions to the International Space Station’s 100kW Electric Power System, including the solar arrays, thermal control, energy storage, primary power and regulated power.

Replacement of the existing nickel-hydrogen (NiH2) batteries with the more efficient, higher power Aerojet Rocketdyne-designed Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) battery cores began in 2017 and completed the process in 2020. Designed to operate for 10 years, the Li-Ion batteries provide 1.5 times the power of the previous International Space Station batteries (Li-Ion 15 kilowatts vs NiH2 7.8 kilowatts) while requiring 50% fewer battery modules (24 Li-Ion battery modules replaced 48 NiH2 battery modules). The Li-Ion batteries have incorporated safety features including voltage, temperature, current, charge balancing and cell-overcharge monitoring, making them a safe, reliable and efficient power source for the important research taking place aboard the orbiting laboratory.

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