Feeds

Budget decay kills NASA plutonium drive project

Hopes for speedy solar system shutttle recede

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Budget cuts have forced NASA to mothball its Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG), a power plant designed to help the agency run projects to the outer planets.

The ASRG was a decade-long development project designed to get the most out of space craft using plutonium-238 as fuel in applications where solar power won't work.

Current plutonium-powered craft use relatively inefficient thermoelectric generators. The ASRG development work was based on stirling engines which NASA said produced electricity at four times the efficiency of the older engines. This, in turn, would preserve its reserves of plutonium-238, which is produced in very low amounts.

NASA had initiated the ASRG effort to preserve plutonium-238, but in this statement, planetary science division director James Green announced the termination of the program:

“With an adequate supply of Pu-238, and considering the current budget-constrained environment, NASA has decided to discontinue procurement of ASRG flight hardware. We have given direction to the Department of Energy, which manages the flight procurement, to end work on the flight units. The hardware procured under this activity will be transferred to the Glenn Research Center to continue development and testing of the Stirling technology.”

However, as Casey Drier of the Planetary Society explains, NASA's current output of Pu-238 is so low that it would take as much as 11 years to fuel a project like New Horizons, now approaching Pluto after a flight that started in 2006.

Drier's fear is that falling back to the less efficient thermocouple-based generator will constrain the number of outer-planet missions NASA is able to launch. A NASA animation describing the ASRG technology is below. ®

Watch Video

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter breaks NINETEEN THOUSAND of your EARTH POUNDS
That's right, OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.