Powering to new destinations in space

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 on 27-28 June 2018 at ESTEC in Noordwijk.

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.

Our Department of Physics and Astronomy 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.