Design and integration of a solar AMTEC power system with an advanced global positioning satellite

G. Johnson, M. E. Hunt, W. R. Determan, P. A. HoSang, J. Ivanenok, M. Schuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


A 1,200-W solar AMTEC (alkali metal thermal-to-electric conversion) power system concept was developed and integrated with an advanced global positioning system (GPS) satellite. The critical integration issues for the SAMTEC with the GPS subsystems included: 1) packaging within the Delta II launch vehicle envelope; 2) deployment and start-up operations for the SAMTEC; 3) SAMTEC operation during all mission phases; 4) satellite field of view restrictions with satellite operations; and 5) effect of the SAMTEC requirements on other satellite subsystems. The SAMTEC power system was compared with a conventional planar solar array/battery power system to assess the differences in system weight, size, and operations. Features of the design include the use of an advanced multitube, vapor anode AMTEC cell design with 24% conversion efficiency, and a direct solar insolation receiver design with integral LiF salt canisters for energy storage to generate power during the maximum solar eclipse cycle. The modular generator design consists of an array of multitube AMTEC cells arranged into a parallel/series electrical network with built-in cell redundancy. Our preliminary assessment indicates that the solar generator design is scaleable over a 500 to 2,500-W range. No battery power is required during the operational phase of the GPS mission. SAMTEC specific power levels greater than 5 We/kg and 160 We/m2 are anticipated for a mission duration of 10 to 12 years in orbits with high natural radiation backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-39
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1997


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Cite this