Overview of the issues related to the use of Radioisotope Power Systems in European space missions

Christophe Fongarland, Richard M. Ambrosi, Alessandra Barco, Laurent Jourdainne, Cédric Lemarié, Keith Stephenson, Hugo R. Williams

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)


Space nuclear power is the most viable energy source for some space missions, such as the exploration of outer planets or the exploration of a planetary surface with long day/night cycles. Thanks to high energy densities, certain isotopes can generate considerable amounts of heat for long time periods, independently of insolation levels; this heat can be converted into electrical power, or used to keep suitable temperatures inside the spacecraft. However, the presence of radioactive material implies new requirements, to properly manage all the aspects related to safety. A common European safety framework is required for Europe and ESA to independently manage radioisotope power systems: a significant amount of programmatic effort in many domains and by different entities will therefore be required, but the long and wide-ranging experience of other countries in dealing with space nuclear power systems could be an appropriate starting point.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2019 European Space Power Conference, ESPC 2019
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
ISBN (Electronic)9781728121260
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019
Event2019 European Space Power Conference, ESPC 2019 - Juan-les-Pins, France
Duration: 30 Sept 20194 Oct 2019

Publication series

Name2019 European Space Power Conference, ESPC 2019


Conference2019 European Space Power Conference, ESPC 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank ESA for funding the research program.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 IEEE.


  • Power
  • Radioisotope
  • Safety
  • Space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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