Power Electronics

NASA Evaluates Titanium Heat Pipes for Moon Trip

Through its wholly owned subsidiary Thermacore International, Modine Manufacturing (www.modine.com) has delivered, high-temperature titanium heat pipes to NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. These heat pipes are evaluation prototypes in support of NASA’s effort to develop radiator panels for rejecting heat from the power generation systems for long-duration space and planetary base missions and could be used on trips to the moon, Jupiter and points further in space.

The Thermacore heat pipes are intended for use at temperatures up to 250o C. The delivered prototypes, which are 12.7 mm in diameter and 1.15 m long, are made from titanium and use water as the internal working fluid. These devices, capable of transporting over 500 W, are produced at Thermacore’s research and development facilities in Lancaster, Penn. NASA is pursuing the development of power generation systems capable of producing tens of kilowatts of electrical power for future missions to Jupiter and beyond.

The Brayton cycle is the leading power conversion system being evaluated by NASA. Just like all electric generating systems, the unconverted waste heat must be rejected. In this situation, it will be done with large radiator panels that contain heat pipes operating in the temperature range of 20o C to 250oC. To minimize weight, these heat pipes were constructed from titanium.

“The first use of this heat pipe technology will most likely be on the moon for rejecting heat from the electric generating system for powering the lunar habitat. It would be quite an honor if our heat pipes become part of that mission.” said Nelson Gernert, Research and Development Engineering Manager at Thermacore. The use of heat pipe technology on the lunar surface is the qualification for using them on other missions.

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